Today, after a three hour BJJ seminar, a bunch of my training buddies and I were promoted. Exactly four years, to the day, after earning my blue belt, I earned my purple belt.
Previously, the adventurers managed to broker a deal between the different parties in Allenham which seemed to satisfy everyone’s needs. The remaining threat to newly brokered peace in the village was still threatened by the presence of the Procyon somewhere in the wilds around town. Magistrate Strickland struck a deal with the adventurers that they could resolve the Procyon presence in return for two sturdy mules or donkeys for them to use on their way to Pinefall. The adventurers returned to the elven ruins in the forest, convinced that they would be able to find tracks which would lead them to the Procyon hideout. After searching they found an entrance to a underground system underneath the ruins, from which a group of Procyon spilled forth to do battle with them.
Fifth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262
(Silvermoon in low sanction. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waning.)
Right after Luca had managed to penetrate the illusion which was cast over the statue of the elven lovers, a Procyon scout rose up from an entrance in the base of the statue which lead to the ruins below the garden. He had is bow drawn and loosed an arrow at Luca, who managed to duck out of the way. In the confusion, eight fleet-footed Procyon scouts emerged from the entrance, each of them carrying swords and bows. Quick to follow was a large, black feline, that came bounding out of the entrance, going straight for Luca. And last came another elf, this time clothed not in the supple leathers of the Procyon scouts, but in the loose flowing robes of an arcanist, carrying a wand made from twisted wood.
The feline pounced on Luca, taking him down, while everyone else was immediately under fire. James moved quickly from bush to bush, the thorns of the roses tearing at his clothing and skin, but always keeping hidden from sight. He was all over the garden striking suddenly when the opportunities presented themselves. Astrid raged as she tore into the nearest Procyon scouts with her grotesque sword and Emma unleashed a tidal wave of water like a hammer. Emrys used his illusions to duplicate himself causing confusion among his attackers while flinging broken shards of marble at them. At one point, Emma managed to lure one of the Procyon scouts close enough to the waterfall to shove them triumphantly over the edge.
The adventurers all found themselves out of position to support each other. Soon, Luca was down, James had drawn the attention from the arcanist, Emrys was drawing fire, Astrid was battling several scouts at once, and Emma was dealing with assailants of her own. Luckily, they had managed to strike enough of the scouts down and wounded many others so that they started a tactical retreat back towards the entrance at the base of statue. They grabbed as many of their fallen as they could and descended down into the ruins.
Emma took a moment to call upon Sedna’s divine grace to bring both Emrys and Luca back from the brink. Questions were raised about what to do next. Perhaps the adventurers thought they had the Procyon on the run, perhaps they felt threatened by leaving them down in the ruins, perhaps they felt that now was the best time to strike, and so they climbed down into the ruins. They used all caution as they found themselves descending down into part of an elven bath house, the interior matching the exterior with marble columns and rose bushes decorating them.
They found a doorway leading to a corridor which ultimately took a right turn leading down a flight of stairs. At the bottom of the stairs another short corridor which lead to another room, much like the one they had just departed, complete with a bath and all the trappings of a decadent bath house. They found signs of a camp, with hastily discarded bedrolls, trinkets, clothing, and the signs of an extinguished campfire.
Another corridor lead to another staircase, once again going down and taking a right turn. Another corridor at the bottom of the staircase lead to an almost identical room with a bath in it. Again there were signs of a camp. The same in the next room. The last room they found did not have the same signs of a camp, but was otherwise identical to the previous three. The only room that was unique was the top room, as it was more elaborately decorated with rose bushes, which was something the other rooms lacked.
The final corridor eventually lead to entrance to the base of the hill on the north-western side. Allenham lay about an hour to the south-east. The entrance to the tunnel was obscured by roots and vines coming off the side of the hill. When the adventurers emerged into the daylight, they were once again confronted by the Procyon, lay in wait in the treeline, ready for an ambush.
As the adventurers emerged they were beset upon by a sudden, magical blizzard, pelting them on all sides with cold, hard hailstones. Then came a hail of arrows from the scouts. Last came the devastating arrow from Cendelius’ own recurve bow, exploding in the middle of them, knocking out Emrys and Luca once again. They had been lured into overextending themselves in their pursuit of this group of guerrilla fighters and had paid the price for it. Astrid and Emma grabbed their fallen companions and the group retreated back into the safety of the ruins.
The group decided to rest in one of the bath chambers, setting up simply spells which would aid them in detecting if or when the Procyon would return to finish them off. But after hours of rest, the Procyon never came, and the group decided it was safe enough to return to the top of the hill, emerging from the entrance in the base of the statue to find that the remaining dead scout the Procyon had initially left behind had also been retrieved. What they did find, however, were some of the items of the scout which Emma had pushed over the edge of the waterfall. They decided to take their shortsword as proof of their battle.
Returning to Allenham they found the village eerily quiet. Syndarael’s cottage was abandoned, with the door left open. Other huts and cabins had closed and bolted their doors. Something was clearly amiss. When they came closer to the centre of the village they saw small plumes of smoke coming from the Allenhouse. Upon arrival they found the large building damaged by fire, the two guards slain, and the door open wide.
Inside they found magistrate Strickland slain at the hands of the Procyon, with Sylvael cradling his head in her lap while her mother was futilely trying to patch up the magistrate’s wounds. The only thing that Syldarael could say was that everything would become so much worse now.
The adventurers decided to try and take charge the situation. Some did it for their own benefit, some did it out of a sense of duty, but conversations were held with Falibor and Herman to rally together and lead the village until such a time that another magistrate would be sent from Kingsport. The latter also agreed to provide the adventurers with one of his donkeys in repayment for their efforts in dealing with the Procyon presence.
Emma took care of cleansing the body and preparing it for burial, together with Syldarael who explained that the farmers of Allenham paid homage to the Earthmother. They believed that they came from the earth, and would return to the earth in death. The bodies of the two guardsmen were retrieved by their families, who were going to put them to rest the following day in a small, private ceremony.
Luca tried to find out where the magistrate kept his rookery and was annoyed to find that such a small village like Allenham didn’t have a rookery of their own. No wonder Kedelon had to make the trip up and down river to Blackbridge so often. They only had a bird whenever Kingsport sent them a bird, which they would then promptly send back with a reply.
Emma provided a solution to this problem by using the divine grace of Sedna in order to send a message along the streams and rivers of the Lyrian countryside, all the way to the handsome folk hero and lieutenant of the palace crownsguard, Sir William of Eastwarren.
Surprised by the usual message, William promised to relay the message to the steward of Kingsport. Or at least, that’s what Emma imagined he was trying to say in reply since the message got cut off prematurely.
That evening, Emrys and James patrolled the streets, making sure that the Procyon did not return to cause more trouble. The irony of two half-elves on patrol to keep the villagers of Allenham safe was not lost on anyone.
I’ve always considered myself to be a person with a generally low level of anxiety. Especially when compared to some of the people around me, I felt that I wasn’t afflicted by the same levels of anxiety as those I saw in my peers. Over time, I’ve learned more about anxiety and the ways in which you can express it, and I’ve realised that from time to time I’ve experienced it, but never in a way that was either unpleasant or debilitating. I’ve known fear, especially when I was young, but anxiety was never a significant part of my life.
The last few months have been a bit of a struggle. Work challenges have preoccupied me, my motivation has gone down, less exercise, less endorphins, less happy overall, etc. And what I’ve noticed is that my general level of anxiety has risen to a point where it’s having some interesting effects on my mind and the things that occupy me in those random moments, when I’m cycling to work or take a shower.
I start thinking about accidents more often. About getting injured. About what would happen to the people I’d leave behind if I should come to die. What would happen to me if one of my loved one died. That sort of thing. It doesn’t happen very often, and I always consider the thoughts kind of silly, not lending them much gravitas, but I wonder; if this trend continues, will I still be able to enjoy jiu jitsu as much given the possibility of injury?
For now I’m taking care of myself a little better. I make sure to get to training two times a week. Go running two times a week. Not indulge in junk food too much. And make sure to do those things that bring me joy and calm me down. My friends and family have been quite helpful, too. They’ve all given me the space I need and have put up with my terrible mood, for which I am very thankful.
I read somewhere that “getting drunk is basically just borrowing happiness from tomorrow.” When I shared this with my sibs, Robin said that his father said that a hangover is the interest you pay on the loan, which is so true!
Previously, the adventurers tried to find the common ground between the conflicting parties in Allenham in the hopes of creating a foundation upon which peace could be brokered. They talked to magistrate Strickland, the healer Syldarael and the farmer Herman, who seemed to be at the epicentre of the racial tension in order to get a better sense of what could put this strife to rest.
The adventurers stumbled upon a mob of humans who were dragging a halfling family of three from their home and tried to put a stop to it. In the middle of James shepherding the halfings to safety while the rest was confronting the mob, a group of Procyon archers opened fire on the mob, killing many of them, before being driven off by the adventurers.
Magistrate Strickland was called to the scene. The bodies were collected and a meeting of notable figures in the conflict was arranged for later that day.
Fourth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262
(Silvermoon in low sanction. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon in high sanction.)
In the wake of the massacre, when everything had been arranged and the adventurers had some time before the council meeting, they decided to investigate the direction in which the Procyon archers had headed. They were able to pick up a trail and start following it. Emma noticed a piece of fletching made from a bright, red feather and made a not of it.
After close to an hour of wandering deeper and deeper into the woods surrounding Allenham, the adventurers stumbled upon a pond at the base of a hill, fed by a small waterfall coming from higher up on the steep hill. The pond had cool, fresh water with all manner of small fish and tadpoles swimming around in it.
Pieces of broken and cracked marble columns and archways were found nearby, indicating a winding path which lead up the hill. As the adventurers ascended higher up the path, the columns became more overgrown with vines of bindweed and beautiful thorny rose bushes.
The top of the hill opened up to a circle of thick oak trees surrounding a ring of marble pillars. These, in turn were the outer perimeter for a long forgotten garden which nature had long since reclaimed with wild roses. In the middle of the garden stood a fountain with a beautiful statue of an elven couple holding one another in a romantic embrace.
The adventurers started to quietly explore the garden, each of them looking out for different things. Emrys seemed lost in thought as he wandered the garden, while Emma was looking for the source of the waterfall and trying to figure out what used to feed the old, marble fountain. James found a very crude shortsword scattered among the briarthorns which was reminiscent of the weapons carried by the loathsome skaven.
Eventually, the adventurers discovered a hose of skaven bodies in a crevice behind the garden, beyond ring of columns and trees. Using some rope, Emma climbed down with James following her. They discovered that the bodies were riddled with deft cuts and arrows which carried the same red fletchings Emma had found near Allenham after the massacre. It was clear they were dispatched by the Procyon.
They searched the bodies and found some trinkets but otherwise nothing of value. One of the dead skaven seemed to be higher in rank, wearing the same thick leather armour which they had seen some of the task masters wear in the catacombs beneath Lynnecombe. James took a knife and cut a section of the leather and took it with him.
By the time they climbed back out of the crevice, the adventurers noticed that the sun was hanging low in the sky. They had no more time to search the shaded garden for they had a council to attend. The adventurers were convinced that this was a place that the Procyon frequented and that they simply hadn’t unearthed the secrets of the garden, and so Luca decided to leave a bit of parchment near the statue of the elven lovers inviting the Procyon to attend the council.
The return to Allenham from the garden was a lot quicker than the way over and by the time the adventurers got to the magistrate’s house most of the attendees had already gathered in a spacious room used for more official business. Strickland, Syldarael, Falibor and his son Balidor were already present, but Herman and Martha were not there yet, leaving everyone to wonder about their intentions. Sylvael dropped in late, and eventually the Allens did show up, together with another senior farmer.
Strickland took the reigns of the council and suggested that everyone should say their piece, state their intentions and desires, and come with any suggestions they deemed necessary in order for the violence and animosity to come to an end. He had good hope that common ground might be found.
Falibor started by saying that there was no dwarven word for forgiveness, just subtle variations on revenge, recompense and retribution. If he was not recompensed, he would depart Allenham and try to make his fortune on the Plains of Strife, or perhaps return to Ard Thoradun.
Syldarael spoke next and told everyone that in her capacity as a healer, she believed that there was a possibility to repair and heal the community. When she spoke about repair, she seemed to be subtly addressing Falibor, trying to sway him to remain in town. She said that she wanted to see the violence stop, and that she was willing to cancel the wedding if that’s what it took. Martha was visibly delighted by that prospect.
When Herman spoke, he aired his grievance about the unfair distribution of new farmland and that the land that had been allocated to the Stubbs family should rightly have gone to him, or at least a human family. The Stubbs family was the halfling family attacked by the mob earlier that day and had decided to depart Allenham after the violence.
There were several rounds of negotiations but it was eventually concluded that Herman would take control of the Stubbs farmland in return for him pay triple the normal taxes for the first two years, and double the normal taxes for the following three years after that. The money would go towards rebuilding the smithy, repairing the houses, and compensating families for their damages and losses.
The remainder of the time the Procyon activity was discussed. Strickland decided to send Kedelon back down the river to Blackbridge the following morning in order to appeal to captain Randall for some of his guards to be temporarily dispatched to Allenham until the tempers had died down. In the meantime he appealed to the adventurers to resolve the situation with the Procyon, making sure that they no longer saw Allenham as fertile soil for them to raise the crops of revolt. In return for their aid, beds and breakfasts were provided at the magistrate’s house, and two beasts of burden would be provided to aid the adventurers in their onward journey.
Before retiring for the evening, Luca found Emma in her room getting ready to get some much needed sleep. He wanted to give her a lyrium crystal and requested that she experiment with it, like he had. He was curious whether the crystal would work like a universal reagent, like it did for his magic, and whether it would boost the potency and the outcome of the divine magic she had at her command. She politely refused, thinking of the divine magic she wielded as a gift from her goddess, which was something she was unwilling to alter or meddle with.
Fifth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262
(Silvermoon in low sanction. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waning.)
The following morning breakfast was waiting for the adventurers when the woke up. The guards whom they had seen at the magistrate’s house spoke of a quiet evening with no more incidents of violence.
The adventurers decided to return to the garden in the forest to investigate further. They were convinced that there was some hidden passage. Emma had gotten the feeling that the hill upon which the garden stood was the site of some underground activity which had cracked and split the rock, causing the crevice in which they had found the skaven, and diverting the water from the spring from the fountain of the lovers, to the waterfall and the pond at the base of the hill. She felt that there was a way inside the hill and she wanted to make an effort to find it.
The walk to the garden was pleasant as the adventurers found comfort in the shade of the large, broadleaf trees of the woods. They found the garden as they had left it, with the exception that the parchment that Luca had left behind was nowhere to be found.
Emrys, again lost in reverie, was asked what he knew about the place, and he said that it was the remnant of a community of Aen Adhar, or moon elves, that lived in the area over three thousand years ago. He himself was of moon elf descent, and he knew the names of the lovers depicted by the statue; Mindaran Chillwind and Gwyndeith Starfall.
Emma investigated the fountain and found that the marble of the fountain’s basin was as worn by age and cracked by vines and bushes as the pillars around the garden. Luca, amazed that everything is broken except the statue, decides to attune himself to the subtleties of the magic around him and detects a faint aura of an illusion coming from the statue.
As he came to the realisation that what he was looking at could possibly not be the thing which was there, he saw the statue waver and blur, only to reveal an opening into the base of the fountain from which a Procyon commando emerged, training a drawn bow on Luca and loosening an arrow in his direction, narrowly missing his head!