Author Archives: Dennis

Online Antisemitism in Gaming

I haven’t really been personally confronted with a lot of antisemitism while gaming online, but today I saw someone say that you shouldn’t buy anything from Intel because they were fuelled by Jewish blood money. When I saw that it was a fairly unsubtle bit of antisemitism the person responded by saying that they didn’t take kindly to war criminals. When I confronted them further they suddenly became incredibly quiet. The person leading our guild, who enjoys insensitive jokes asked me whether it was going to far and if I wanted him to interfere and talk to that player, which I declined.

It’s interesting; you hear about all that toxic behaviour a lot in the media, but I never really see it. This is the first time I really see it. Perhaps I’ve just surrounded myself with the right people and have been blind to the nonsense that gets spewed online.

A Couple of Days in Amsterdam

About a week ago I came back from a trip to Amsterdam. It had been about six months since I had seen my brother and sister, which is the longest I’ve ever gone without seeing them since either of them was born, and I missed them very much. There were others I had not seen face to face longer than I had ever had since meeting them, like Moulsari, Richard and Dennis (even though he went to Paris for a while, but I still saw him more in person then.) Luckily, technology has evolved to the point where we can talk and see each other whenever we like, but it’s still different than sitting together, without constraints.

Having been working from home for twenty-something weeks, with only the occasional meetups, and having almost all of our groceries and purchases delivered, going outside only to go running, get some fresh air or pop down to the store for a bag of ice cubes, I was wondering what it would be like to be around people again. The early morning taxi and bus ride to the airport didn’t confront me with a lot of people, but it did confront me with the people I had read about, but didn’t think actually existed; the ones who didn’t quite understand how to wear a face mask. They would either have it resting underneath their nose or wear it on their chin! I thought they would be a rare anomaly, but once I got to the airport, I realised there were many more.

One man pulled his mask down to sneeze, not in his hand or elbow; no, just a full on aerial vomit type sneeze. Another man got into an argument with two ladies who asked him to wear a mask, which is was mandatory inside the airport, and he refused, even when security came to warn him. Of course he was on my flight, but luckily he did wear one on the flight. I estimate that the amount of people either not wearing a mask, or wearing it incorrectly was about one out of every ten people.

Being around so many people after weeks of relative quiet was unsettling for a few hours before I began easing into things. The travel itself was not so bad, but there was a low-level, creeping anxiety about keeping proper distance from people. Arriving in a near-empty Schiphol was nice, and seeing that a lot more people seemed to take masks a bit more seriously in public transport in Amsterdam also calmed my nerves a bit.

It was good to see my brother again. I had already decided that there were certain people I was going to hug regardless of the rules. He was one of them. He gave me a proper hug, which he normally isn’t likely to do. Together we went to my hairdresser. I’ve found a replacement hairdresser, but they’re nowhere near as good. That was good, too. Then we met Joasia, who had arrived from Poland, and went to get a drink at Sky Lounge. I was overjoyed to see how serious the hotel was taking their responsibilities. We weren’t going to get in without our reservation, asked us to sanitise our hands, and the place was nearly empty; even though it was a beautiful day and they have a rooftop terrace that is usually packed.

Afterwards we met Luba at the train station and went to Hoorn. That’s where I met my sister. Another hug. We went to dinner and sat outside. Ruurd and Femke came, even though they initially thought they wouldn’t. They came back from their holiday a little bit early so that we could have dinner together. That was really nice. We filled out forms so that they could do contact tracing if necessary. We had dinner, wine and fun conversations. Afterwards, we went for another drink and that’s where I noticed my own apprehension was significantly less than it was at the start of the evening.

The evening ended early because we had all agreed that we would celebrate all the birthdays we had missed during the quarantine as well as my sister’s birthday which was coming up, the next day. And so we went back to Amsterdam; we said goodbye to Robin and Luba and went to our hotel.

The following day Joasia had a million and one appointments (as well as every other day of our stay) and I briefly went to see Moulsari for brunch. We had read that the UK had taken the Netherlands off the list of origin countries where travellers would have to go into a two week quarantine. France had also been taken off the exemption list and we read about half a million British tourists scrambling to get home. We decided not to go that route and simply accept that we’d have to quarantine. It wouldn’t be that much different than what we had been doing for the past twenty-something weeks; it just meant we couldn’t go out for our run three or four times a week.

For the evening we had arranged for a dinner with a bunch of people. There were going to be a lot of people we would like to see and no time in which to see them all. With the restrictions on reservations the only option we had was to make a deal with a restaurant so that we could hold an event, which would allow us to have the place to ourselves and space out a bit. Samuel had been introduced to a great Japanese restaurant and he had made the arrangements. While the service was bad, the quality of the food was amazing and more than made up for it. It was delicious.

I got a chance to meet Samuel’s new girlfriend, Mounir’s new girlfriend, and Moulsari’s new boyfriend. All three people seemed to be fun and smart, and it was good to see each of them doing so well. It was good to see Alina and Bodil again as well.

During dinner, we started making some plans for afterwards and I was quite surprised to see that most people were game for a drink somewhere. We ended up going to the World Class Room, which was supposed to be empty according to Mounir who was doing the planning. When we were in the taxi on our way, we drove through De Pijp, a trendy neighbourhood, and it was bizarre to see just how many people were standing outside of bars, clubs and restaurants. It was a warm night, sure, but people seemed to care little for social distancing.

When we got to the World Class Room we found that it wasn’t empty, but there were a handful of people inside. The place was clearly not going to be able to keep distance between all their patrons, but the bartender who was minding the place didn’t seem to care too much. By that point, I was getting a little tired of worrying about it, and I had noticed the same about a few other people in my group. We decided to stay, and luckily it didn’t take long before the other patrons left and we had the place to ourselves.

It had been a while since I had a decent drink (that I didn’t make myself), so I decided to enjoy myself. People seemed to be in a good mood and I had a few good conversations. My sister was having a good time and I was happy to see she missed her last train which meant she was in for the long haul, which is always mood enhancing.

Eventually, the World Class Room was closing, and in the meantime, Mounir had arranged for us to go to Door 74, where his girlfriend had started her shift around the time that our dinner had ended. People were getting properly tipsy now, and I started to see the carefree attitude take hold of people. Maybe it was also the fact that we had already been together for a couple of hours that made people a little less careful. Whatever it was, it was interesting to see that develop, in others as well as in myself.

When Door 74 also closed, most people went home. Samuel invited us to come back to his place, as he is want to do. Joasia decided to call it a night, so I joined my brother, sister and Bodil for a nightcap at Samuel’s. It a bit before six when I decided I was too tired, and said goodbye to the rest and hopped into an Uber to the hotel.

The next day I had the morning to myself while Joasia went for another one of her appointments. In the afternoon we went to Pikoteo where we sat outside in the sun and had lunch with Lisa and Neil. We had not seen them in a long while and they had decided not to risk it with the dinner the previous evening, so it was really good catching up with them.

At night, Joasia and I went to De Italiaan to have dinner with just the two of us. There, too, we sat outside on the wonderful Bosboom Toussaintstraat. The terrace was arrange rather nicely, with enough distance between the tables. Across the street, however, we noticed another restaurant that wasn’t doing the same. The owner of the place came over to our table and we had a little chat. I told him I was happy to see that they were still open and that they had survived the initial lockdown. He said that he was happy too, but that he wasn’t so sure that they would survive a second lockdown.

He told me that the police was going to be monitoring restaurants more closely and no longer letting them get away with a warning. It reminded me of a conversation I had with Mounir about the warnings Feijoa had gotten for not abiding by the rules, and how frustrated he was that he was the only staff member that seemed to care.

The rest of the night went by quietly. The next day I went to Robin’s in the morning as we had a gaming session for the first time since February. It was unfortunate that Eugenio wouldn’t be able to make it, but seeing as how he was enjoying a much needed break with his partner at the beach somewhere, it would have to do. Richard and Dennis came over and we had a pretty good gaming session, which reinforced to me that while playing over video chat and with a virtual tabletop was pulling us through, it could never replace face to face gaming.

I had the afternoon free and was looking for something to do. It was my plan to go to Hiding in Plain Sight on Monday evening, but I had found out that they would be closing for a summer break as of Monday, so I decided to swing by the bar by myself. Roxanne and Artem were working and the place was empty. It was good to see that they had gotten permission for a terrace outside, so the three of us sat outside chatting. I had two drinks and then it was time for me to head over to dinner with Robin and Luba. We went to Pompstation and we had a lovely meal.

After dinner we were talking about getting another drink and saying hello to Mounir. To my surprise, Robin said that he wasn’t feeling up for it, so Luba and I went together. It was good to spend a little time with her since we had not been getting along as smoothly as I would have liked, mostly due to some unfortunate miscommunication. It proved to be an excellent moment together. Feijoa was quiet, which suited me fine, but as the bar closed a few people stayed until Mounir was done cleaning, including his girlfriend, whom I got to have a chat with.

We joined Mounir and a few others to Law & Order, a relatively new bar that I hadn’t been to yet. I think that may have been a mistake. Apparently it’s a well known bartenders bar, and not for the first time I was confronted with the fact that while I have a few friends that are bartenders, they generally are not my type of people. The bartenders I’ve befriended tend to be the exception rather than the norm, and the norm is loud and vapid.

It was about 2 o’clock when we decided to head out. I’m not entirely sure how Luba did it, because she had to get up for work the next morning. I certainly did not. I did, however, agree to have a breakfast across from our hotel together with Lisa and Neil, which was lovely.

I had another chance to hang out with Moulsari for lunch, and we went to de Hoftuin, and we got to sit outside having lovely food and chat. The evening was boring, BUT…! I did get to have an absolute pile of junkfood. Oh em gee. So good. Before flying out the next morning, we had to fill out a pretty serious form in which we had to explain how and where we would be quarantining. The British aren’t messing around, and even though the situation in England is definitely not looking as good as it does in the Netherlands, it makes me feel better knowing that people are taking it a little more seriously.

The next morning we had an early morning check out, and we made our way to Schiphol. Robin and Luba came to say goodbye before we hopped on the train to the airport, which was really sweet.

What a weekend.

In Preparation for Departure

Previously, the heroes spent the day in Kingsport trying to find a trace of Kalina, the rogue who had driven James’ mother to attempt to assassinate the day master, a powerful guild member of the Steady Hand, by letting her believe that he was responsible for James’ death. They managed to find out that Kalina had lost her precious, jewelled dagger in a game of demon dice to none other than Bran; the dwarf they had rescued from the clutches of the skaven underneath the Sheridan estate. They also managed to catch rumours that Kalina and her crew were stealing horses around the Powderham estate, north of Kingsport.

Second Day, First Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

It was the late on a rainy afternoon when the Heroes were at the Careless Wanderer, talking about the possibility that it was an impostor who duped Jeanne, James’ mother, into making an attempt on the life of the day master. The heroes were unable to reconcile Kalina having lost the dagger in a game of demon dice with the fact that she had also given it to Jeanne. They knew that there were many more such daggers being used by shadowy assassins, but there was something not quite right about the way that Kalina had behaved that they couldn’t ignore.

James decided to pay another visit to the butcher shop where the day master could be found. He was hoping to convince the day master to allow him another few minutes to talk to his mother so that he could learn something from his mother that could confirm or dispel his suspicions about Kalina. Having learned that Luca could be trusted on expeditions to the Fleet Street butcher shop, he asked him along. Emrys tagged along party-way so that he could visit with Lyandra Windrunner, the renowned leatherworker who had a workshop outside of the city walls.

After Emrys went his separate way, James and Luca found themselves on Fleet Street, in front of the butcher shop. It was softly raining and Luca took shelter across the street, under an awning of a closed shop while James went inside. L’eau Célestes, the wine shop that Luca had entered the previous evening was closed, leaving him without a dry place to stay. Luca held on to Blackstar and used the staff to extend his senses outward, detecting a multitude of different people around him, all observing him and the comings and goings on the street.

Meanwhile, James sat opposite the still injured day master amongst pigs carcasses hanging from hooks and chains. James informed the day master about acquiring the dagger that Kalina lost and showed both it and his own. The day master pulled the dagger that Jeanne had used from a hidden sheath and put it down on the table next to the other two; all three of them looked almost identical to one another.

James laid out the theory that Kalina may well be innocent and that it was an impostor that duped his mother. It became quite clear that the day master was unforgiving in his anger towards Jeanne when he refused to let James speak to her again, saying that it took all of his discipline not to have her murdered. Perhaps realising that he should not count on too much help from the day master if he wanted to keep his mother safe, James decided not to press his luck.

Just north of the Brown Gate, amidst the huts of tanners, trappers and hunters, Emrys found Lyandra Windrunner’s workshop; a small shack surrounded by workbenches, stacks of prepared leather and boxes of tools. Lyandra turned out to be pleasantly surprised at Emrys’ visit and invited him in. They shook hands and Emrys noticed the many scars on Lyandra’s forearms; burn marks from working with hot tools and oils all day. Emrys explained that he had admired Lyandra’s work on the scabbard that now held Toruviel, and that he was eager to have her decorate the scabbard further, commemorating some of the adventures that he had been on in the recent past.

The work that Emrys commissioned was to adorn the already spectacular scabbard with silver filigree, with a gemstone embedded in the centre of it. When Lyandra asked him what gemstone he had in mind, Emrys wasn’t certain yet. Lyandra suggested that it should be a moonstone because it would be appropriate for a moonblade. Emrys liked the idea, since it also symbolised Sehanine, the Moonmaiden. Perhaps it also reminded him of Lauriel, the founder of his people in the Riverlands, who he was engaged to have married in an alternate reality.

Lyandra asked Emrys whether he had named his blade yet. He intimated to her that the blade already had a name; Toruviel. Emrys saw a look cross her face that he did not recognise. He let it slide and agreed upon thirty crowns for the commission, with a down payment of ten crowns for materials. She had to gather and prepare the materials she would need, and in turn Emrys promised he would return to her with a suitable moonstone. They agreed that the execution of the work would happen when he would return to Kingsport.

On his way back to the Careless Wanderer, Emrys managed to talk his way into a few stores that had technically already closed. He picked up a few components that he would need to fuel his spells. Some of the more crucial ones he missed and hoped to collect the next day.

As Luca and James made their way back to the Careless Wanderer, James confided everything that he had seen, heard and learned when talking to the day master, further strengthening the bond between the two. When they arrived at the inn around the same time that Emrys returned, they found that Quentin was chatting with some travellers from Beauclair, while Astrid was enjoying a friendly game of arm wrestling.

During dinner the plan was formed to head to the Powderham estate, by way of Lynnecombe to pay a visit to House Sheridan and see about the reward that was promised them. A conversation was had regarding the purchase of mounts, possibly through Mirek, but when Quentin shared the likely cost of mounts, the heroes decided to hold off until after they had been paid. Instead, they would finish off their shopping by going by the Circle of Mages for the last spell components that Emrys was in need of, while Astrid arranged for a barge to take the heroes up-river to Lynnecombe-upon-Lyn.

Third Day, First Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

Early in the morning, Astrid went out to the docks to arrange for transport, while the rest of the heroes went to visit Emma at the Sacred Baths of Sedna to ask her whether she would like to join them on their trip to the Sheridan estate. They found that Emma was reluctant to join them, saying that she would prefer to spend her time in leading the followers of Sedna in the difficult time ahead and that she intended to forego claiming her reward; knowing that they had saved Lord Destan was enough of a reward for her. Was asked about her intentions to care for the queen, she said that she would visit with the queen later that day.

The heroes made their way from the Sacred Baths to Ravensbourne where the Circle of Mages had their college. There they found that a large crowd of protesters had gathered in front of the main gate. Shakeslock, the demagogue who had been preaching on Steward Square the day before, was leading the crowd together with a handful of red-robed monks, and was demanding that they be allowed entry to investigate the college for dangerous artifacts and corruption among the staff and students.

The man standing in opposition of the crowd was a broad shouldered man with a grizzly beard wearing fur-trimmed robes. The man had an unconcerned expression on his face as he addressed Shakeslock, explaining that as an alumnus of the college, he could be given entry, but not with his angry mob in tow.

The heroes pushed their way past the protesters and Emrys couldn’t help but release the stench of rotten eggs again, like he had done the previous day. Luca was identified as an obvious threat and Shakeslock used him as an example why he and his monks should confiscate the dangerous artifacts and root out the demonic corruption that he claimed was rife inside the college.

After a short conversation with the grizzled man, they learned his name was Olafur, and he was from Miðgarður. He was the custodian of the college and, among other things, made sure that there was a healthy supply of curious components, ingredients and materials. He explained that in his position, he would be interested in the more obscure components that were not as easily found; hydra scales, wyvern stingers and the like. James, ever the entrepreneur said that he would keep his eyes open.

When Emrys explained why he had come to the circle, Olafur invited the heroes into the building to take a seat in the hallway while he went to look for the components that Emrys was looking for. While searching, he asked what magical education Luca and Emrys had enjoyed. Luca explained that he had been educated by crones, witches and pellars, while Emrys said that he was self-educated. The different backgrounds became apparent, when Olafur asked Emrys which circle of magic he needed the obsidian for, indicating that it mattered to which samples of obsidian he would give him. Emrys was a bit lost for words, since he did not quite understand what was meant by “circle.” James noticed Emrys’ confusion and jumped in to play the layman, asking all the questions Emrys probably had, saving Emrys from embarrassment. The “circle” that Olafur referred to was the college’s term for the school (or type) of magic, and Emrys explained that it was meant for a transmutation spell. Olafur supplied Emrys with three pieces of obsidian and a handful of caterpillar chrysalises Emrys was after for another spell.

A last stop at the Temple of Light was made in order for James to speak to father Devon, and elderly cleric who James was very close with. The heroes got to see the modest temple from inside, as well as the clinic where they took care of many of Kingsport’s less fortunate. James gifted father Devon the holy symbol that brother Connal had carried into battle against Atilesceon; a golden caduceus. Father Devon was astonished at the gift and very thankful. While he couldn’t provide the heroes with any healing potions, he did gift them three ceramic jars with a buttery ointment which would help in the healing process.

When the heroes returned to the Careless Wanderer, they settled their outstanding debt and Emrys made sure that in six days time they would claim one of the more spacious and luxurious rooms as their own. Astrid had gotten reacquainted with Aram, the boatsman who had brought the heroes upriver the first time they went to the Sheridan estate, and said he would be willing to do so again for a small fee.

The trip to Lynnecombe-upon-Lyn took several hours with the weather being considerably more miserable than it was the first time around. Luca and Emrys entertained themselves by investigating a new ability that Luca had discovered about Blackstar; the ability for spells to be stored inside the staff for later use; even if they were cast by another arcanist, like Emrys! The rest of the travel was uneventful, as they past by the many small estates of Northshire on Aram’s boat, with his son riding the ox that dragged the boat along the bank of the river Lyn.

When they arrived in Lynnecombe-upon-Lyn, they each paid a silver stag to Aram for the journey and James, ever generous with children, gave Aram’s son three copper pennies for his trouble. The village was much less hospitable now that the summer had come and gone. No more fruit vendors; no more curious children. The heroes decided to make their way west, towards the road that lead through the woods towards the Sheridan estate when they came upon a notice board. There, they found several messages that proved insightful;

Warning!

If you plan on traversing Avondale Wood, the one near the abandoned Scatterfoot farm – forget about it. Best add on half a league and go around. It’s for your own good, for nor you nor no man else’ll meet anything good in that place.

(A crude drawing of the area, including the public footpaths and trails leading through and around the Avondale woods.)

Beware of Robbers with Black Masks!

A plague’s descended on our lands of late, an infestation more vile than that of any vermin. Horse rustling robbers have chosen to make our fair terrain their devilish stomping grounds. Now no man can feel safe here. These are common highway bandits. They steal men’s cattle and mounts and befoul any lasses worth their trouble. We’ve sent writs of complaint to the crownsguard, but til they comes with an army to clear off these mongrels, best avoid these parts if at all possible.

Death to the Invaders!

Hark, fair folk of Northshire. If you’re yearning for freedom, if you’re prepared to take up arms, if you’re prepared to help the kingdom and rescue its inhabitants in besieged Elder Foothills and Tiverton Glades, come and find me at the magisterium on Independence Square in Kingsport. Pay will depend on your experience and skill at arms.

– Ser Ademar of Woodbury, Knight-Errant, former Knight Commander in the Order of the Lance, Vassal of House Grey, Veteran of the Battle against the Eighth Daerlan Brigade on the Plains of Strife

Travelers, Beware!

If you aim to travel, avoid the road through Avondale. The Reaverhaunt Caves have become infested with crooks led by a shady individual known as Glasya. Bypassing that area is strongly advised, unless accompanied by a well-armed escort.

Kribbig

This is the twentieth week of the lockdown, having worked from home and only going out for a run four times a week, and a small handful of social events. I’ve noticed that lately I’ve become more irritable, and it’s been manifesting itself in a heightened anxiety around clutter. Especially other people’s clutter where it would be inappropriate for me to interfere with it. Where normally I would make note of clutter and internally bitch, moan and complain about it, now I find it increasingly difficult to keep my mouth shut. Also, the feeling that I have when confronted with clutter has become more intense.

The same goes for particular inconveniences. Like how the tap in the kitchen sink seems to have been designed by a complete fucking idiot who had never encountered a sink before, but read a description of it in a book once.

So I do what I always do when I need advice regarding mental health issues, and I turned to my sister. I wanted to know whether this was temporary, or permanent; like due to the result of growing older, for instance. She assured me that it was likely due to have no access to the normal ways in which I blow off steam; jiu jitsu, partying, etc. I really hope she’s right, because I really don’t want to put Joasia through these moods.

Meeting an Old Friend While Tracking Down an Enemy

Previously, the heroes each went about trying to find out more about the person who had duped James’ mother into an assassination attempt on the day master, an influential leader for the Steady Hand, the guild that James was a member of. The person in question, Kalina, was a Silesian, just like James’ mother, and a successful horse thief. Each of the heroes did their best to find out about her whereabouts before the patience of the day master ran out and James’ mother would have to pay for her actions with her life.

Second Day, First Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

After having visited different acquaintances in Kingsport to find out more about Kalina, the heroes came back to the Careless Wanderer, unsure on how to proceed. In a moment of kindness, albeit one inspired by the desire for some privacy, Luca decided that the group should gather at one of the tables outside of the inn. The benches and table were still moist from previous night’s storm, but it would be away from the angling visitors and it would allow Astrid to sit under the open sky; something Luca knew she preferred.

After Durham brought cups of mulled wine filled with spices and berries, the conversation turned to how Kalina’s jewelled dagger got to be in Jeanne’s possession if Kalina had lost it in a game of dice. James had verified that the dagger with which his mother had attacked the day master was indeed the spitting image of his own; a dagger he had started wearing out of sight ever since it caused such a problem in Blackbridge. The possibility was raised that Kalina had made a big spectacle out of losing the dagger so that she could deny having given it to Jeanne.

Not being familiar with the situation in Kingsport, Quentin wondered aloud who might benefit from the day master’s death. James mused that it was likely a great number of people and groups that could benefit from destabilising existing power structures, and immediately the question was raised whether the illness of the queen might be tied to the attempt on the day master’s life. The queen fell ill about a ride ago; around the same time as Jeanne’s failed assassination attempt. Was someone trying to sow chaos in both the upper- and under-classes of Kingsport society?

The conversation fell flat and it was at that time that James discovered that an elderly, veiled woman was observing the group through a window from the inside of the inn. He let Luca know, using the Lauriel’s Earing of Whispers, which both of them still wore an equal part of. Despite that, it was Emrys who made a move to go inside, order more drinks and approach the woman, asking if she would be interested in joining the group.

Magda, for that was her name, was delighted and join the heroes at the table outside. She was the owner of the Careless Wanderer and despite her being blind and wearing a blindfold underneath her veil said that she had observed that each one of the heroes was touched by the seidhe and that she herself had been exposed to the fey in her younger years. Overall, she had fond memories of those times, but she did give the heroes a casual warning that the customs, expectations and etiquette of the realm of the seidhe were curious and that it was easy to run afoul of them.

James decided he would look for Wojciech, the Silesian stable master at the Careless Wanderer he understood to have regularly met his mother and Kalina at the bend in the river outside the Brown Gate. He found the man tending to the horses at the stables behind the inn. He introduced himself to Wojciech and explained he was looking for Kalina. Wojciech told James many of the same things that Mirek had also shared with him; Kalina had an unpleasant temperament and that he would occasionally meet her together with other Silesians. He could also tell James that he had tended to her horse only half a ride ago and that she was on her way out of Kingsport. When James confirmed that he knew about Kalina’s occupation as a horse rustler, Wojciech told him that recently she had run afoul of the House Courtenay guards around the Powderham estate. He heard they had been seen at the ruins of the Scatterfoot farm near the Avondale woods.

The next stop for the heroes was The Hoxton, the well known tavern at the bottom of the Serrated Street in the middle of Lewisham. As they made their way there, they crossed over Steward Square and saw a familiar face proselytising in front of an audience of two dozen people; Prementhine Shakeslock. He was once again warning people of the danger of corruption and doom spread by warlocks and those that consort with demons. He was wearing a red tabard, and was surrounded by several people dressed in red robes. He also referred to himself as “Brother Prementhine” and said that he would demand the Circle of Mages submit themselves to an inquisition to weed out corruption and hand over dangerous artifacts.

The heroes didn’t linger and made their way to The Hoxton. They found the taproom crowded and the second floor balconies filled with people of all ilk. Several tables held card and dice games with people gambling on the outcome. After some investigations, a gambler by the name of Edna, an older woman with crooked fingers filled with silver rings, recounted the story of Kalina’s demon dice game against a dwarf called Bran who lived in a shack in the Grimsdown ward. Kalina had lost her dagger and had to be tossed out of The Hoxton by Lenny, the proprietor of the establishment and the Kingsport bare-knuckle boxing champion.

On the way back to the Careless Wanderer the heroes crossed Steward Square again and saw that the crowd listening to Brother Prementhine had swelled even further. The heroes decided to play a prank and simultaneously try to get the crowd to disperse by displaying a little magic and making the area smell of rotten eggs. Luca was the one who came up with the idea, but he couldn’t make it work without being noticed, but Emrys, with a wealth of stage trickery had learned how to hide his sorcery and picked up where Luca’s idea left off. It was a small success and they managed to divert some of the crowd due to the bad smell that they conjured up.

When they got back to the inn, the heroes came to the conclusion that with dwarves being a rare sight in Kingsport it might be worth talking to Durham about where Bran was staying in Grimsdown. As luck would have it, the two were acquainted and he could give directions to his shack. But before their visit to Grimsdown, Luca decided that it was high time he visted Eustace the gemcutter and get his Lyrium crystal back. Quentin decided to join him.

The pair made their way to the Southside ward and quickly found Eustace’s little workshop. Upon entering the portly man set down his tools and took off the strange spectacles he wore while working and upon recognising Luca his face turned frightful. He began apologising profusely and explained that in Luca’s long absence the custodian from the Circle of Mages had been by as he often does to purchase materials for the college. He had also bought the crystal and paid 45 gold crowns for it. Luca quickly turned the disappointment into an opportunity to acquire more pearls for his divination spells. The pearl that Luca wanted was worth over 100 crowns and the gemcutter would not be browbeaten into giving that much of a discount, so Quentin put down a writ to cover the remaining value that Eustace could recover at the Sheridan Trading Company. The gemcutter relented and a deal was struck.

On the way back to the Careless Wanderer Luca decided to explain in detail just how valuable the Lyrium crystals were and why it was important that they recover the crystal which now was in the possession of the Circle of Mages.

Eventually, the heroes walked to Grimsdown, the unremarkable ward in the north-east of Kingsport known only for the falconry set up in the shadows of the Bastion of Restraint and the falconers who took their birds onto the bastion in order to train them. When the arrived in the right area James once again showed how effective an agent he was inside the city by paying a group of street urchins a silver piece to let them know which shack was the dwarf’s. A few knocks on a warped wooden door and they stood face to face with Brandomiir; the mohawked, foul-mouthed rogue who was in the employ of the Sheridans and helped the heroes free the Kaedwyni orcs.

He was happy to see the heroes and invited them into his small abode. He had been at work at the Sheridan estate, not just to restore the water supply, but later also to explore and secure the underground catacombs that the Sheridan were looking to exploit. He left the employ as soon as he was able, since Hallis, the captain of the Sheridan house guards, never trusted the dwarf after she suspected his involvement in the orc escape. He took his coin and acquired the shack in order to ride out the winter. The various tools around the shack showed that he was in the process of fixing it up. Quentin also noticed a rare arquebus hanging above the mantle in the shack.

When the conversation turned to Kalina and her dagger, he recounted the story on how he won it from her in a game of demon dice. When James asked if he still had the dagger he produced it from a chest and said that he had not found anyone to sell it to. After a bit of haggling Bran agreed to sell the dagger for the small fortune of 350 gold crowns, which Bran claimed would cover the cost of the individual gemstones and craftsmanship. He seemed happy with the trade. After the sale, the group stayed on a little longer to talk and reminisce about the orcs, after which the heroes departed back to the Careless Wanderer.