Author Archives: Dennis

Dreams and a New Direction

Previously, the heroes visited the Circle of Magi to look for Hamish, Luca’s friend who he was keen on visiting. Unable to reach Hamish they continued on to the College of Bards where they spoke to Andrew, a bard and nobleman who was on friendly terms with Emrys and could share some insights into the political situation of Lyria. The evening was cut short as the curfew went into effect and the heroes returned to the Careless Wanderer.

Ninth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

Before the morning came, James, Emrys and Quentin were plagued with cryptic nightmares.

James woke up on the floor next to his bed, claimed by Astrid, in a nest made of blankets. He quickly grabbed something with which he could scribble down his fleeting memories and recalled a burning Kingsport, the ground cracked with fel green fissures swallowing up people. He remember seeing a tentacle snatch up an orange jewel and crush it to dust. He reached into his bag for a bottle of alcohol, his dependence on it growing as it helped him cope.

For Emrys, the dream was filled with burning forests and broken, marble columns. His kin lay dead, their skin blistered. He remembered seeing the statue of to lovers in a passionate embrace, covered in roses. A crude hand reached out to drain the life from the roses. As he quenched his morning thirst and contemplated his dreams, he was struck by just how real and life-like they seemed. He decided to try and sleep a little more.

In Quentin’s dream he witnessed estates and vineyards burning. The withering of his loved ones. He saw trees heavy with fruit. An olive-skinned hand with long, black talon-like nails plucked a vine of grapes which withered at its touch. When he woke, he realised he would need to talk to someone, an oneiromancer.

Each of the three were reminded of some of the other dreams they had over the last couple of months. James, especially, had been subject of foreboding dreams.

Luca’s morning started differently; he felt great, with a radiant warmth in his chest. He felt the compulsion to pray, so he cleaned his pits and bits, went downstairs and found the tavern far from open for business. He grabbed some food and headed out into the miserable weather to go to the cathedral in the hopes of attending a morning mass.

Walking through the empty streets Luca noticed the night-time braziers that the crownsguard would light up. Long since burned out, he found a little bit of charcoal at the bottom of one and wondered whether he could harvest enough of it to power the conjuration spell which he had been contemplating.

The cathedral was open and Luca went inside. There he found a few small groups of people and a handful of solitary individuals like himself praying while the clergy spent time cleaning the cathedral. He headed to the chapel of St. Aureus and kneeled down to pray. The warmth inside of his chest grew and he chuckled when he realised who he had become and have far removed it was from who he was when he was young.

Quentin and James both got up when they could smell breakfast. They bumped into one another while entering the tavern, and Quentin could smell the alcohol on James, but decided not to pursue it. James said that he had not been sleeping well and that he had strange dreams, which he didn’t think surprising, considering all that the heroes had been through. Quentin thought that James was dealing with it well, since James was as hungry as an ox. Quentin decided to go for a frugal breakfast, seemingly having been more disturbed by his dream.

The two heroes exchanged the details of their dreams over breakfast. Quentin did not share every detail and James chalked it up to Quentin not having noted down all the details before the memory of the dream faded away. Quentin asked James what the Lyrian attitude was to soothsayers and the like. His lord-father never approved of the superstition of fortune telling, but he remembered some of their servants talking about their dreams. James, unfortunately, couldn’t really say as he had always been more focussed on other things.

When Emrys eventually came down he managed to pretend that everything was fine, despite how he felt. It was at this time that Luca also returned from the cathedral. James asked Emrys and Luca whether they had had nightmares, but both denied. Emrys deftly steered the conversation to the topic of Astrid and whether or not she might need some care after her ordeal. The plan was made to find her a new weapon, while James decided he would check in with the day master, which was close by Dagran Forgewright’s smithy, which was where Emrys suggested they’d go for Astrid’s new weapon.

When James arrived at the butcher’s shop on Fleet street, he found that there were fewer members of the guild around. Communicating through subtle signals with the guards around the shop he was allowed entrance. There were no goods for sale at the shop, no people tending the counter, and no butchered pigs hanging from hooks in the back. He noticed another guard in the back who motioned him to go downstairs, into the basement. There he found the day master sitting at a table. He saw that the day master was still wounded; a blood soaked bandage over the side his mother had attacked him at.

The day master listened to James as he recalled every detail of his mission. When James was done, the day master asked James to speculate on the reason why so many winged serpents had been reported seeing flying from all parts in the direction of Eastmarsh. James couldn’t tell, but he did hand over the two books he had liberated from Kalauranthalasis’ treasure hoard, which pleased the day master greatly. Before departing, the day master once again tapped his glass eye with the tip of a dagger, saying that he would keep his eye on James.

Eventually James found the rest of the heroes at the Forgewright Arms, negotiating for an appropriate weapon for Astrid. Dagran Forgewright did not have any great swords in stock and claimed his stocks were low due to the crown buying up supplies in order to outfit troops who were heading east to bring the rebel houses back in line. He could, however, forge one, given enough time.

The long crafting time was mostly due to a critical shortage of charcoal in Kingsport; the supply of quality charcoal from the north had been interrupted by the invasion of orcs, who were harassing the Plains of Strife.

Luca showed Dagran the scrapings of lyrium slag which he had retrieved from around the portal underneath the Sheridan estate, all those months ago when he first met the others. The dwarf took Luca’s hand and stuck his nose in it, inhaling deeply. “I remember that smell,” the dwarven smith said while closing his eyes in reverie. When he opened them again, he dismissed the idea, since it was far too little to forge anything from. However, he did intimate that he could socket any lyrium crystals the heroes might have. Luca retrieved a small blue crystal from the assortment of different coloured crystals he had collected. He remembered from the pillars inside the ziggurat that blue crystals held abjuration magic and he thought it appropriate to benefit Astrid with some more protection after she had died at the hands of Xamael.

When the deal was struck, Emrys said; “The Heroes of the White Eye salute you.” That was met with a surprised look from Dagran, and an immediate nod of approval. In the meantime, the heroes were offered two simple longswords that were available, which they took for Astrid, and then said their goodbyes.

A short jaunt away from Forgewright Arms, in the heart of Old Town, the heroes found Dr. Arkenward’s house, a well-maintained, half-timbered house with a limestone masoned ground floor, and a beautifully shingled, tapered rooftop. When the heroes knocked on the door there was the voice of a woman with an accent which confirmed the rumours that Dr. Arkenward had married an aen adhar. Emrys announced himself as “Emrys Price”, saying that the heroes had come to learn how Dr. Arkenward was doing. The voice behind the door hesitated and confirmed Emrys’ last name. She again asked that the heroes state their business, and Emrys did a remarkable job of convincing Vydia, Arkenward’s wife, to let them in.

She was of slight frame, with dark brown hair. She was dressed in traditional Lyrian clothing which was popular among human, upper-middle class society. She also had a big bandage covering her left eye. One that seemed as if it had seen a change of dressing only recently.

The door lead into an ante-chamber which seemed to serve as a laundry room, which in turn was attached to a large kitchen. She offered the heroes a seat at a large, wooden dining table, as well as a warm, dark brown, bean drink. As the heroes sat down, she walked over to fill a small cauldron with water and hang it over a fire, which she lit using a simple cantrip that both Emrys and Luca recognised. As the water for the drinks was heating up the heroes spoke with Vydia. Emrys once again took the initiative.

The heroes learned that Vydia had been a gifted seer as a child, but left her religious-conservative home to find soothsayers and mystics to train under, eventually finding her way to Cuidad de Torres, the capital of Càrceres, where she studied with the Oracle of the Spires. It was there that she met Arkenward when he was a young mage, studying his craft in the city. Later they would move to Kingsport and start working at the Circle of Magi. Vydia found that she did not fit in well with the Circle and soon sought to work elsewhere, honing her talents.

When she started to have premonitions of the young queen being in danger Arkenward took it very seriously and started to use his position at the Circle to manoeuvre himself closer to the queen, eventually being asked to come to court to protect the sovereign.

Two Friends, One Lost and One Found

Previously, the heroes had brought their companion Astrid back to life and spend some time around a table discussing life and the future. To everyone’s surprise Quentin, who had received a response for his lord father to his letter, did not seem to remember writing his father. To find some confirmation the heroes went to speak with Toruviel Fast Feathers, the scribe of a Kingsport rookery from where Emrys remembered Quentin sending the letters. The scribe confirmed that the letters were sent and Quentin had to admit that perhaps the good sisters took more in tribute than he had bargained for.

Eighth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

The sun had gone down and the curfew that still rested on Kingsport was close at hand, but despite that, Luca wanted to go to the Circle of Magi and find Hamish. He had plans to establish contact with the cantankerous mage again in order to gain access to some of the spells that Luca was hoping to learn. And so the heroes set off into the foul weather, making note of the all three of the moons were once again on the rise, causing a light, violet colour to shine through the occasional breaks in the stormy clouds.

Once at the Circle, Olafur let them into the building and informed Luca that it had been a while since the Miðgarðurian had seen Hamish. After persuading the custodian of the Circle to allow the heroes access to Hamish’s room, they found that the young mage had not been in his room for a while. Olafur could also tell the heroes that Hamish had switched his research focus from conjuration to illusion magic. After giving the room a good once over, Luca concluded that it appeared as if Hamish hardly spent time in the room, but tried to make it seem as if he did.

Having concluded their business at the Circle, Olafur brought the heroes back to the lobby. Luca asked whether it was possible for the Circle to take a look at some of the artefacts that the heroes had liberated from Kalauranthalasis’ lair, which was possible once the circle had found a new archmage to take over the Circle of Divination after Callum’s passing.

Out on the streets in front of the Circle a lot quicker than expected, Emrys was keen on getting the perspective of the bards on recent events. He convinced his companions to make their way to the College of Bards, a short jaunt away and visit Andrew, one of Emrys’ friends who stayed there. The last time the heroes had come to the college it was a bustling place of music, laughter, discourse and creativity. But now, so close to the curfew going into effect, the amphitheatre in front was desolate and empty.

They found Andrew inside, slightly tipsy on wine and very happy to see them. His private chambers were lavish and he was eager to have everyone feel at home. Andrew poured everyone cups of wine which were from “father’s personal vinyard in Southernhay.” The conversation with Andrew was a bit erratic, to match the nature of the good man.

The heroes learned that “dark delirium” had been around for a little while, but really gained popularity during the curfew over the last ride. There were places throughout the city where one could go to imbibe something and enjoy the intoxication. These places were accessible through the ancient waterways, which were controlled by the local underworld.

The heroes also learned about house Courtenay; how the rivalry between house Valois and house Courtenay started in 941, when King Phillip d’Aragon became gravely ill and decreed on his deathbed that men and women would be equal in all manner of things, including inheritance. This meant that his eldest, princess Síle d’Aragon, rather than prince Estienne d’Aragon, would inherit the throne. Princess Síle would go on to marry a popular Beaclairois marquess, lord Tristan of house Valois, and thus the d’Aragon dynasty ended and the Valois dynasty began. Prince Estienne’s line would eventually give rise to the wealthy house Courtenay; who only four years prior had lead a rebellion against Queen Isabella when she took the throne at age twelve, when her father, King Augustine was assassinated by foreigners.

Lord Charles Courtenay was a principled and hard man who had used his great wealth and influence to stage a rebellion and get away with little more than a slap on the wrist. His house used to be the wardens of Northshire, which was taken away from them and given to house Corbray, whom the heroes had heard, as they had met Ser Roderick Corbray twice; once when they had returned to Kingsport from Pinefall, when they watched the knight fall to his knees in reverence to prior Benedict, and a short time ago when he welcomed them back to Kingsport at the docks.

An interesting detail about house Courtenay losing their wardenship was that they were not removed from the queen’s council, traditionally comprised of representatives of each of the warden houses.

Before departing the college, Andrew turned to Quentin and marvelled at the rose-covered scabbard at his side and once again recited the song he performed in the Wanderer when the heroes had just returned from Pinefall;

The earth was sown with early flowers, the heavens blue and bright,
I met a gallant cavalier as lovely as the light.
I knew him not, but in my heart, his graceful image lies,
And well I marked his open brow, his sweet and tender eyes.
He carried sword and scabbard, full of leaves and blossoms mixed,
Encased by vines and verdant growth, with flowering blooms betwixt.
Plunging sword in barren soil, crops and vintage grew,
The hungry, famished and the starved were given life anew.

When the heroes left the college the city was under curfew. The streets were empty and the only people out and about were crownsguard and groups of red custodians. This required the heroes to rely on James’ knowledge of the city and the backstreets in order to make it back to the Careless Wanderer.

Once back at the Wanderer, the heroes found that Lauryn and Durham were puzzled by something that went missing. Emrys and James recognised the fingerprints of Wynn all over this and agreed that the little quickling was quickly becoming a nuisance and would have to be dealt with sooner or later.

Emrys interrupted the two puzzled hostelers and asked Lauryn if it was possible to take a bath before retiring. Before the bath was fixed, Luca found him and asked for the spell scroll Emrys had taken from the dragon’s hoard that would allow him to summon a wizard’s familiar. Emrys gave it to him, and after Luca studied it in his room, he came to the realisation that he would need several gold crowns worth of charcoal and incense, which he would need to burn in a brass burner. He had seen brass burners at the House of the Raven Queen when Astrid was revived, but he had also heard that one of the prominent smiths in Kingsport was having trouble with a shipment of charcoal, so he was hoping he could arrange for all of that soon.

James went to his room to find he had to pick the lock to get in because Astrid had taken his key and locked the door behind her. She was out cold. After Emrys’ bath, he spent some time in the tavern, playing his lute and entertaining the few people in the Wanderer. He didn’t perform up to his own standards, but Lauryn was thankful enough that she covered the expenses of his food and drink.

Luca returned the spell scroll to Emrys before the latter retired for the night. Instead of transcribing the scroll, Luca had spent time investigating the the book he had taken from the hoard; The Luminous Enchiridion of Thunda. It was said to only open while exposed to arcane light, and indeed, Luca found that he could only pry the brass plates of its cover open when he had cast a Light spell on it. He perused the book, which was filled with wonderful arcane theorems which would surely help him in magical research. When the duration of the light spell expired, the book flipped closed and Luca found himself unable to open it again. It was time for him to finally go to sleep.

A Flick of Hares

21 September – A Flick of Hares

There are a few areas of language that get people going quite as much as whether the correct term for a bunch of politicians is a posse or an odium (or worse), while lexicographers have long been looking for their own group name – a sentence (though the judges have already taken that one)? The only boring thing about collective nouns is their name.

The majority of group terms that we know and love today – ‘a gaggle of geese’, ‘an exaltation of larks’, ‘a murmuration of starlings’ – sprang form the medieval imagination. Created by the elite of the elite, they were written down in books of etiquette aimed at instructing the nobility on how not to embarass themselves while out hunting, hawking, or fishing. For the medieval nobleman, knowing that the correct term for a group of ferrets was a ‘busyness’, for hares a ‘flick’, and for hounds a ‘mute’, was a badge of honour. A handling of these terms would not only avoid humiliation, but would mark the gentry out from the peasants.

Our primary source for such terms is the fifteenth-century Book of St Albans, a three-part compendium on aristocratic pursuits. Its authorship is attributed to Dame Juliana Berners, Prioress of the Sopwell nunnery in Hertfordshire. Not only did her work contain over a hundred and sixty group names for beasts of the chase and characters on the medieval stage, but it also boasted the first images to be printed in colour in England. It was an instant hit, reprinted and reissued many times both by William Caxton and the (superbly named) printer and publisher Wynkyn de Worde. Its popularity extended far beyond the nobles for whom it was originally intended.

More than half a millennium on, we still use many of these concoctions, relishing the knowledge that congregated crows form a ‘murder’, and that foxes come together in a ‘skulk’. Others among those fifteenth-century lists prove that collective nouns have invited wordplay from the start. You only have to hear ‘an incredulity of cuckolds’ or ‘a misbelief of painters’ (such as portrait artists, who rushed to broaden the shoulders and embellish the eyebrows of their subjects) to eavesdrop on the medieval sense of humour. ‘An abomination of monks’ made fun of those who took solemn religious vows but who were frequently the lecherous party animals of the Middle Ages.

Some of our enduring favourites have had complex pasts. Before a ‘murmuration’ settled upon starlings (inspired by the sound of the birds when flocking together), the collective noun was ‘mutation’, thanks to the belief that the bird shed a leg at the age of ten and then promptly grew a new one. An ‘unkindness of ravens’ arose from the belief that these huge, dark carrion birds were omens of doom.

Some from the past deserve to be brought back: such as a ‘drunkenship of cobblers’, born in a time when ale was safer to drink than water. And then there are those that are surely due a revival: today’s postal workers would enjoy ‘a diligence of messengers’, while pub landlords and landladies might happily join a ‘laughter of hostelers’.

Today, there is no official list of collective nouns, and the search for new ones goes on. Modern choices, submitted whenever the topic trends (and it does, often), include a ‘foothurt of Lego’, a ‘pedant of Oxford commas’, a ‘blur of opticians’, and a ‘wunch of bankers’. The search for the name for a group of politicians goes on.

Word Perfect, Etymological Entertainment for Every Day of the Year by Susie Dent

Sacrifice and Forgotten Memories

Previously, having saved the queen’s life, it was time for the heroes to attempt to revive their friend Astrid, who had died in the fight against Xamael. They turned to cardinal Roark, who stood at the head of the House of the Raven Queen. They had to plead for Astrid’s soul to return to her body, but with great effort and sacrifice Astrid was woken once again.

Eighth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

The heroes had returned to the Careless Wanderer, with a visible tired Astrid in tow. While the kitchen was not serving the same bountiful food as it had only rides before, Durham saw that the heroes were in need of the good stuff, and he decided to have a word with Ramsay to make sure that some proper food was going to be served up.

While the heroes waited, the conversation turned to Astrid’s lodgings and James offered up his room to her for the time being. Astrid took the key to James’ room and asked Durham to prepare a bath for her. Once the food was brought all began to eat. Astrid hardly said a word and just focussed on devouring as much of roasted the lamb shank she could. The rest ate and discussed their plans;

The heroes decided that it was important to find out more about Arkenward’s tablet, and they would need to find a way to safeguard the tablets they already had in their possession. James realised that now that he no longer have to carry around Astrid’s body, his bag of thievery would be empty enough to hold both the tablets. Emrys and Luca both realised that while the tablets would not be secured, they would certainly be obfuscated while in the bag.

There were other matters to attend to. The heroes had liberated a large cache of magical items from Kalauranthalasis’ lair which needed studying. They had been invited to visit the Courtenay manse in Ravensbourne. They needed new supplies. The heroes potentially wanted to look into the source of Dark Delirium. And while Wynn had been a fun distraction, the heroes started to realise that there might be some consequences to unleashing him on Kingsport.

James wanted to visit with the butcher for some house keeping, touching base with his guild leadership.

Luca wanted to learn some new spells and was going to barter at the Circle for them, and he wanted to transcribe and investigate some of the scrolls that Emrys had taken from the vault.

Quentin wanted to go past the Library of Ioun and potentially research the book of Celtician bloodlines he had taken from the ziggurat, while still having the ambition of reaping the rewards for saving the queen and liberating the rebel lords from the carceratum and leveraging that into getting an audience with the queen and her council. Not to mention that his lord father was riding for Kingsport.

And Emrys felt like Astrid was in need of some new armaments now that she had risen from the dead. He also wanted to speak to Le Papillon at the College of Bards, attempting to learn more about the legends behind Réonan.

Lauryn, who was on her way to do some of the inn’s laundry, came by the table to deliver the letter that lord Dorian had sent Quentin.

My son,

Your message left me perplexed. When I finally managed to get high lord Gauthier’s ear, he was left equally perplexed. We have done exactly as you suggested and the high lord has made some discrete inquiries. What he has shared with me has left me even more confused. We both agree that we should travel to the Lyrian capital and get some clarity, despite the rapidly changing weather. We expect to arrive midway through the second ride of Autumn Twilight.

By the swan.

Lord Dorian of House Morvrayne

Quentin was very troubled since he had no recollection of ever sending a message to his father. This in turn sparked a conversation with Emrys, who had accompanied Quentin to the rookery in order to send the letter. After some deliberation about this, the conclusion was drawn that Quentin’s sacrifice to the Good Sisters must have been the memory of whatever the handkerchief which had been associated to the contents of the letter, though Quentin himself found that very difficult to accept and said that Emrys must have been mistaken.

All the while, Astrid had been eating, like a woman whose soul purpose was to get through the shank, while waiting for her bath to be drawn.

While James suggested to Quentin to use some subterfuge once his lord father arrived in order to have his father reveal what he may have written in the letter to him, Emrys suggested visiting the rookery where they sent the letters from so that they could confirm that Quentin did indeed send the letters, hopefully sparking something in his memory.

As the plans were made to go to the rookery, Quentin became quite despondent and down. James reminded him that he was a knight and that he should approach all hardship as any other battle; to be fought and conquered. While the battle was different than the one he’s fought before, Quentin needed to master this, just like he mastered attacking, feigning and riposting.

Before departure, Emrys checked on Astrid, who was soaking in a hot tub in the basement of the Careless Wanderer, vast asleep.

The heroes climbed Quayhill, heading towards the Bastion of Illumination, the enormous light house which loomed high over the city and was part of the city’s ramparts. In its shadow was the manse that housed Fast Feathers Rookery. With some inquiries the heroes found the original scribe, the proprietor of the operations at the rookery; Toruviel Fast Feathers. He recalled that Quentin had sent a message to lord Dorian and lady Gwenaëlle, which shocked Quentin as well. While the heroes were talking about lord Dorian and high lord Gauthier making their way to Kingsport, Toruviel shared that he had seen a dispatch which suggested that king Covis, the current ruler of Beauclair had been threatened by the last survivor of a legendary house; house La Valette.

Before the heroes said goodbye to Toruviel and left the rookery, the scribe asked whether he was allowed to see Emrys’ blade once again; obviously holding enormous significance beyond sharing his name with the blade.

As the heroes made their way back to the Careless Wanderer through the rough weather they learned a few things about Quentin. First, Quentin thought his father not to be a particularly good man; one who would do anything to get ahead.

Róisín came up in conversation. Once named Fleur, the ancestral blade of house Lys, it was evident to Luca that the high lord might be travelling to Kingsport to retrieve the blade. Quentin said that the blade was no longer Fleur and that there was a duality in the blade as it had absorbed Ser Estienne’s spirit into it.

While Emrys and James paid a visit to the Circle and spoke to Olafur to find out where Dr. Arkenward was and learned that he was living in a small manse in the old town ward with his aen adhar wife Vydia, Luca and Quentin went directly back to the Careless Wanderer. Luca attempted to use some of his newfound radiant powers to try and dispel the forgetfulness that the Good Sisters had left Quentin with. It failed and Blackstar mocked Luca’s attempt to go undo the old magicks of the hags. Quentin wondered whether the ghost orchids could be used to heal him, a notion that Luca believed the hags would never have allowed.

Later, Luca spend some time to use his magic to divine the nature of the different magical items they had collected over the last couple of months. He found a multitude of curious objects, armours and weapons, as well as a few curious books and potions. One item in particular was hard to divine the nature of; the whip carried by Xamael, who turned out to have much in common with the other Arms of the Senhadrim. It housed a sentient spirit and was very formidable indeed.

Reviving a Friend

Previously, the heroes managed to revive the queen from her torpor, but not without suspecting there was a higher price to pay than was immediately apparent. In doing so, the heroes got into conflict with princess Mildred, the queen’s aunt, and her husband the steward of Kingsport, lord Gabriel. They tried to interfere with the process and had to pay for it with their lives. It was clear that princess Mildred had been an agent of Xamael.

Seventh Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

The heroes had just finished up their intense conversation with Réonan, the grand archmage of the Circle of Magi, while Luca had a conversation of his own with Aurion at the Cathedral of the Platinum Father. It was late in the afternoon, and the heroes were really starting to feel the fatigue of the last couple of days weighing down on them.

As they made their way down the Elysian street, Quentin and Emrys were still talking about what Réonan said, and the likelihood that Quentin would receive his reward for liberating the rebel lords from the carceratum; an audience with the queen’s council so that he can rally the nobility to action. Réonan’s position had been one of inaction, which frustrated Quentin. Emrys understood the frustration; in his tribe he was meant to be a prodigy, a saviour, but he never believed in fate. To believe in fate was to believe in a lack of agency; you were merely a cog in a machine.

While Quentin and Emrys spoke and headed to the Careless Wanderer, James went to look for Luca. There were not many people on the street, but he managed to knock on a few friendly doors and ask some bored people whether they had seen a dark figure with a long staff come by. While he didn’t find a trace of Luca, he did managed to find out that a lot of the Steady Hand’s operations had moved below the surface of the street, likely to avoid detection from the patrolling crownguard and custodians.

In the meantime, Luca was about to depart the cathedral. On his way out he approached some of the clerics and asked about prior Benedict’s whereabouts. After the clerics made the sign of the triangle in respect, they informed Luca that the living saint had headed north, into the Silverpine Hills, in order to discover the site of the first cathedral, which he intended to rebuild.

When Luca stepped outside he saw James making his way across the empty Steward Square. They met on the steps of the cathedral, in the wind and rain, and James gave Luca an earful of grief for leaving the Circle by himself while carrying one of the tablets. To his credit, Luca did not deny that it was a mistake. The two decided to go to the Careless Wanderer and meet up with the Quentin and Emrys.

The Careless Wanderer was quiet and subdued. When the heroes left Kingsport to head to Eastmarsh the place had been filled to the rafters with visitors and fisherfolk who were looking to participate in the annual royal master angling competition. It would be at least another ride before the competitors would return to Kingsport, before the first snow, in the hopes of becoming this year’s master angler. For now, it was quiet.

The heroes arranged for some rooms with Lauryn, the friendly aen cannell. She asked after Astrid’s whereabouts, but the heroes kept it vague. Emrys took a luxurious room overlooking the stables, while James, Luca and Quentin each took a simple, single room. Luca made a point to ask for the single room he had when he first laid eyes on Aurion, just before departing Kingsport to go in search of Lord Destan.

When James went up to his room to put away his belongings he was surprised to find that Wynn was still hiding away inside his bag. He decided to let the excited little guy wander around the inn freely. The young quickling was delighted to hear he had finally made it to the fabled Kingsport.

“We’re finally in Kingsport! I’m going to be famous here!”
– Wynn the Quickling

Eighth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

The following morning Luca did something that he had never done in earnest; he prayed. Because he did not know any prayers, he had to reach back to some of the childhood prayers and rhymes that he was taught. As he did so he felt a warmth fill his body which reinvigorated him.

During a very sober breakfast in a quiet tavern room Luca shared with the others that prior Benedict was no longer in Kingsport. He was going to be their first port of call in order to see about besieging the gods about Astrid’s death. Instead, the heroes discussed the possibility of turning to the House of the Raven Queen. Due to the nature of Astrid’s death, and the way in which Xamael had reanimated her body to fight against her friends, the heroes felt that the Raven Queen might be susceptible to the argument that Astrid fell before her time.

Near the end of breakfast, a crash could be heard from the kitchen, followed by cursing from Ramsay. The heroes could hear the distinct sound of a playful little bell which told them that Wynn was the cause of the ruckus. All of them looked to James, who just shrugged and smiled.

After breakfast the heroes went around to the stables and found Wojciech who was busy shoeing a horse. He was happy to see the heroes had returned, but guessed their intention; they wanted him to head down to the Sheridan estate to pick up their horses. He was happy to do so but said that the roads were more treacherous. Bandits had moved south from the Plains of Strife as that area had become more dangerous. He would take two friends along and for 2 crowns he would leave that afternoon and return the following day.

The heroes also spoke to Lauryn in order to safeguard some of the items they were unwilling to take with them to the House of the Raven Queen; most notably Blackstar, with which Luca wasn’t welcome the first time he tried to enter. Quentin decided to leave the Armour of the Malakim behind as well, as the package was simply too heavy for him to carry. They would be stored in a closet in Magda’s quarters for safe keeping.

Luca asked Lauryn if she could get a message to Hamish Black that he wished to speak to him, to which Lauryn immediately started balking. She told Luca that he knew that Hamish was not welcome in the Wanderer any longer, but the plan was for Luca to meet the young mage at the Circle. Lauryn agreed to seen a messenger. All the conversation of messengers reminded Lauryn that there had been a message for Quentin from his lord father Dorian Morvrayne, who was said to be en route to Kingsport together with lord Gauthier of House Lys. The news of this turned Quentin’s throat dry and his stomach to water.

The House of the Raven Queen stood opposite the Wanderer. Its gothic architecture was hard to miss, but the heroes had gotten used to it. Now that it was their destination they could really appreciate how much the building stood out. In contrast to almost all buildings in Kingsport, which were made from Northshire limestone, the Raven Queen’s sacred home was made with jet-black stone. It was grand in its design, much like Paladine’s cathedral, but without all the decorations, having chosen instead to adopt sleek, long lines which made the building look like a weeping willow, or a melting candle. The tall, wooden doors were unadorned except for the pattern of feathers engraved in it.

When the heroes knocked the doors were opened by clerics, so called silent brothers and sisters, each of them soberly dressed in black robes, with their faces painted white with dark charcoal rings painted around their eyes, making them look like solemn, sad and ghastly at the same time.

Inside the cavernous building was dark and gloomy, with the only light coming through the tall windows from the grey skies outside or from the rings of candles that were lit around each of the thick support pillars that held the ceiling aloft. A small number of people were there, either alone or in small groups clustered together, mourning or remembering their fallen loved ones. The silent brothers and sisters moved quietly in the darkness beyond.

The heroes were lead down the long aisle toward an unadorned, grey block of stone which served as its altar. An older man stood there, with broad shoulders and a strong body, shrouded in a dark robe. His face was clean shaven and his head bald. He wore a simple black hat and had intense green eyes. He introduced himself as cardinal Roark. His words broke the silence in the building like a curse.

When it became clear why the heroes had come, the cardinal asked the silent brothers and sisters to clear the building, and for the heroes to all place their hands on the altar and tell the Raven Queen about Astrid’s death. James told about their mission, about saving the queen and their conflict with Xamael. The cardinal concluded that James had not address Astrid’s death.

Quentin took a turn and explained how loyal Astrid had been, how he had let her down and how much he had regretted that. James, who was sceptical at first, scrutinised Quentin’s words but had to conclude that the young Beauclairois knight was speaking honestly. The cardinal was still not satisfied.

It was only when the heroes truly addressed the fight with Xamael, Astrid’s death and how she had been raised as Xamael’s undead minion before they had to put her down again. The cardinal seemed satisfied and went to practical matters of the body and the material sacrifice. He explained that three of them had to participate in the ritual and attempt to call Astrid’s spirit back.

When the ritual started, two silent brothers brought heavy censers which spread an intoxicating smoke throughout the building until the altar and the heroes were completely surrounded by pale, scented smoke. The cardinal began to recite long litanies to the Raven Queen, which took a very long time. Eventually, he invited the first of the heroes to convince Astrid to come back.

Emrys decided to go first and said that he and Astrid went back a long time and that he had come to know her as someone who loved life, relishing every encounter and every moment, taking them as they came. Emrys said that Astrid was taken unjustly and that he looked forward to her return. From somewhere in the smoke the heroes could hear Astrid’s voice ring out.

“It gladdens me to know that Odin prepares for a feast! Soon I shall be drinking ale from curved horns! This hero that comes into Valhalla does lament her death. I shall not enter Odin’s halls with fear.”

Luca was next to speak. He assured Astrid that she would indeed be welcomed in Odin’s halls, but that it was not her time yet for she had not felt the salt spray on her skin as she captained her own ship across the Bay of Teeth. He promised her that he even had a ship for her. Again, Astrid’s voice cried out.

“I shall wait for my sons to join me, and when they do, I will bask in their tales of triumph. The Æsir will welcome me. My death comes without apology. And I welcome the valkyries to summon me home!”

James was last to speak. He said that there Æsir would welcome her more if they had seen more adventures together. That the world needed her, and that there was more to do. He asked her if she would join them or their quests. James asked her what the rush was.

When her body began to stir it was not in the same, violent way in which the queen stirred when she was revived. Nor did Astrid’s eyes shine with an infernal glow when she finally opened them. Stiffly she rose to her elbows and pushed herself up into a seated position. She looked ghastly, with dark, charcoal rings around her eyes. She had returned and the heroes welcomed her back and they would wait to see how her revival had changed her.