Author Archives: Dennis

Xarrombus

Previously, the heroes made it out of the ancient waterways after failing to liberate Hamish from the Steady Hand and the aberrant lords who held him in captivity, exploiting him for his knowledge of the production of dark delirium. Despite Hamish being swept away by an aberrant lord, he managed to slip a wooden figurine into Luca’s pocket, with which Luca believed he could locate his friend.

Third Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

Despite coming in late from their adventure in the ancient waterways the heroes were unable to get a full night’s rest due to the fishermen waking them up with songs, shouts and laughter. The weather had turned miserable outside, but that would not deter Luca from visiting Vydia. He hoped that the diviner could use the last of the figurines that belonged to Hamish to locate him.

As the companions got ready to brave the terrible weather outside, James decided he was going to use the day to track down the night master’s hideout. Astrid stole a water-treated cloak from one of the fishermen, while Luca made himself unpopular by opening the front door and letting all the heat escape, earning him dirty looks from the patrons and disapproving looks from Durham.

When Quentin, Emrys, Luca and Astrid arrived at Vydia’s manse in Old Town, their clothing was soaked all the way through to their small clothes. Vydia’s servant, the friendly halfling, quickly gave them access to the scullery where they could hang their cloaks and take off their shoes. They were then lead into the kitchen and handed towels while Vydia made them cups of morning brew in a cast iron cauldron hanging from a hook inside her hearth.

When Luca explained why he had come, Vydia explained that she had dreams of Hamish. She could not explain what she had seen well, claiming that she was not an oneiromancer and not specialised in interpreting dreams. She was delighted when Luca handed her the missing, wooden figurine that Hamish had slipped into his pocket. She felt confident that she would be able to divine the whereabouts of the missing mage apprentice.

Vydia invited the heroes to come and stand with her at her cauldron, so that they could see what she saw. Astrid stayed seated at the kitchen table, but Luca, Quentin and Emrys came closer and stood around the hearth. They watched as Vydia started her ritual, speaking arcane words of divination while stirring the morning brew in the cauldron. One by one she tossed the figurines into the brew and they sank to the bottom and while they did a wisp of thin vapour started to rise from the murky liquid.

As Vydia continued her ritual the vapour filled up the rest of the cauldron and pretty soon started to tumble from the sides. Slowly at first, but faster as the moments went by. Soon the kitchen floor was covered and the heroes could no longer see their feet. It rose higher and higher until they were surrounded in mist and could no longer see Astrid or the rest of the kitchen. All that was visible was the hearth, the cauldron, and each other. Luca could see shadows of enormous things moving through the mist like ghostly ships and it reminded him of the things he saw while he stood on the balcony of the crimson tower looking out.

The focus came back to Vydia when she started to speak. She was still staring at the cauldron and the morning brew. She claimed to see a coastline, the mouth of a river flanked by two hills. On one hill stood a fortress, on the other hill stood a lighthouse. A small settlement lay between the two hills, on either side of the river.

She continued to describe how her view changed as she plunged into some catacombs on which the settlement was built. She saw long, dark tunnels with walls covered in glowing moss. She described a wide shaft leading straight down. The walls were covered in slugs which were hiding intricate murals. She then described an enormous eye at the bottom of the shaft. It was golden with a long black pupil, like that of a snake.

Vydia urged the heroes to peer deep into cauldron and they could see the eye too. And suddenly they all made a connection to a strange entity that called itself Xarrombus. It spoke to them through their minds. A creature that claimed to have “ownership” over Hamish and that it required the mage apprentice for his ability to create dark delirium; it helped the creature sleep and dream, which was its only way to procreate.

Throughout the communication with Xarrombus, there was a continuous whisper of negativity in the subconscious of the heroes; like a draining headache. Despite the troubling influence, the heroes continued.

Probing Xarrombus more, the heroes found that it was a creature that was summoned from the “far realm”, a place beyond the planes that neither Luca nor Emrys had ever heard of. It explained that it was summoned by a vault keeper to act as a guardian for a vault. Over time it broke its chains and took control over the vault it was summoned to guard. More shockingly, it identified Réonan as the vault keeper that summoned it, a celestial of some sort.

The heroes got Xarrombus to explain, in cold and dispassionate terms that it had no interest in the Blood War and only regarded it as a marker that it could prepare to go home. To it, the Blood War signified a weakening of the Seal of Divine Animus, which meant it could set its plans in motion.

At that point Quentin succumbed to the revelations and the constant drone of negativity. He walked through the mist from the kitchen to the scullery, donned his boats and cloak and went out into the pouring rain. The rain felt cleansing, and by the time he got to Queensbridge he paused and looked out over the river. Quentin recognised the description that Vydia gave from her vision. He looked to the west and saw Garamond hill, topped with the palace, and to the east he saw Quayhill, with the Bastion of Illumination atop it; the settlement Vydia had seen was Newport, an early version of Kingsport!

Emrys and Luca had stayed behind with Vydia and Astrid. They had continued to probe the strange entity but learned only one more useful thing; it seemed as if Xarrombus was looking to create agents all over Kingsport and it seemed to the heroes that it was attempting to do so by way of the slugs that they have found. It had attempted to do so with Jeanne, and potentially with Vydia.

Luca and Astrid returned to the Wanderer, while Emrys stayed with Vydia and made sure that she got care at the Temple of Pholtus, where father Devon performed a similar procedure on Vydia as he had done with Jeanne. He presented Emrys with a strange slug which he had retrieved from behind Vydia’s eye.

On the way to the Wanderer Luca decided to visit the Cathedral of the Platinum Father where he spoke to Aurion in the transept of Saint Aureus the Golden One. While communing with his patron he learned, like Quentin did, that the settlement that Vydia saw was Newport. He also learned that Xarrombus’ agents allowed the strange entity to connect to each of them and see through their eyes.

When Quentin came back to the Wanderer earlier that evening he spent time in his room in prayer and contemplation. He asked if this was a trial and if he should continue to guard the threshold. He bared his torso and clutched the feather talisman around his neck. The same black and white feathers that had appeared along his shoulders and upper arms during his initiation ceremony reappeared, but they did not come with an answer. When the feathers withdrew, he continued in solitude the rest of the evening, finding comfort in routinely things like caring for his equipment.

When Emrys finally came back to the Wanderer he was determined to have a heart to heart with Toruviel, and so he retreated to his room to commune with the blade.

As for James…

Most of the day was spent going around town. He started at the Silver Cross, reconnecting with some of his friends and acquaintances that he neglected since meeting the rest of the heroes in the early summer. He continue on through most of the places in Lewisham, both the well-known establishments like the Hoxton, as well as the seedier spots you could only get into if you were connected, or had a filled purse.

Luckily, James was both. He spent lavishly and took his time drinking and gambling, making sure to buy the rounds at the right times and lose a few rounds to the right people. His intention was to find out where the night master was headquartered and be back at the Careless Wanderer in the early evening, perhaps an hour or two after the curfew was erected.

But it did not quite work out that way for James…

Fourth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

Early in the morning, just as a pale sun rose over the cloudy eastern horizon, James came home. He tired, drunk and his purse was thin and flat. He had met many interesting and colourful people, some of which would make useful assets in the future. As he shuffled through the tavern of the Careless Wanderer, getting curious looks from some of the patrons and the staff, and stumbled up the stairs to reach his room, he was confident that he had found the whereabouts of the headquarters of the night master; located in the ancient waterways underneath Ravensbourne.

A Crown of Flesh

Previously, the heroes made their way through the ancient waterways and into Grimsdown where they found where the Steady Hand was holding Hamish; the cellar of a local orphanage from where the guild was dealing in dark delirium. The operation was overseen by two aberrant lords who stood in the way of Hamish’s liberation. A fight ensued and one of the aberrant lords managed to escape with Hamish by enslaving the mind of the troubled mage.

Second Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

As Luca regained his faculties and saw that the aberrant lord had disappeared together with Hamish, he immediately reached for Blackstar and used it to sense the souls around him. Doing some quick accounting of the various people he knew to be in his vicinity, he ultimately could not determine whether Hamish was still within range. He used Lauriel’s earring to reach out to James, who was in the middle of disguising himself with clothing taken from the fallen as well as the people who were under the influence of dark delirium that would not be able to resist.

Quentin, who had run out of the front door of the orphanage, came back inside to find matron Myrtle’s body. He took a brief moment to compose her body close her eyes. James and Emrys went down to find Luca and James asked aloud why humans were so stupid; it was unclear to what James was referring, but it was not the first time he rebelled against his mother’s heritage and the culture he was raised in.

In the waterways, Luca was still attempting to discern which direction the aberrant lord had taken Hamish. Close to the ladder leading up into the orphanage there was a large junction of canals which lead to different parts of the city. Panicking, he picked a random corridor and started following it. By the time Emrys and James were in the waterways they heard Luca heading off. Before following Luca, Emrys noticed that James was very uncomfortable in being in the waterways, something he had not noticed before as they had both been invisible to one another. James had mentioned dreams about being chased through the waterways and Emrys felt like his friend was connected to these corridors in some way. As Quentin came down to join them, James took a shot of liquor from his bag in order to steel his nerves.

Before the others could catch up with Luca, the young warlock had found tracks suggesting that he was heading in the wrong direction and he turned back. Once the group was reunited. James was eager for Luca to explain what happened and why Hamish had disappeared. Luca told them that when the aberrant lord came down he had been incapacitated and that Hamish had developed a crown of diseased flesh around his head just before the both of them simply disappeared.

Quentin felt guilty; had he not been stunned, the knight reasoned, the situation would not have escalated and they would have gained the upper hand over the aberrant lords. Luca, out of conviction or annoyance, did not believe that it was the right time to discuss blame; he wanted to press on and catch up with Hamish. The heroes rushed down the corridor they felt was most likely going to lead to Hamish, though none of them could clearly explain why that corridor was any better than the others. Doing something was preferable over doing nothing.

The dash through the waterways was a frustrating one, with dead ends, filth, slime and stench making it difficult to make haste. Occasionally they would hear street sounds coming from grates and pipes leading into the corridors. With every passing minute Luca’s frustration grew. Eventually their choices lead the heroes to an exit underneath the bridge over the river just outside of the Corbray gate.

Third Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

Emrys prepared a spell that allowed the ability of flight, casting it over himself and his companions. This allowed them to fly out over the river, up to the top of the bridge and over the ramparts to get into the city. Luca reminded everyone that Astrid might still be out in the alleyway they left her behind. Emrys decided to fly directly towards Lewisham and investigate, but Astrid was nowhere to be found.

On the way back to the Careless Wanderer James noticed by the watch fires that it was probably two or three hours after midnight. He also noticed that about half of the normal watch fires were lit, probably due to a lack of fuel in the city.

Upon arrival at the Wanderer it took a while for Durham to open the door. Drenched and cold, the heroes walked in to find that there was a lot of equipment set up around the tavern; fishing rods, boots and rain-resistant cloaks. It turned out that some of the fishing teams had returned to Kingsport in time for the end of the competition.

Before everyone retired, Luca spent some time channelling radiant energy to heal Quentin of his wounds. Quentin saw that Luca radiated a soft golden glow while doing so, he the knight could have sworn he sensed the celestial energy of Aurion. He leaned in and whispered into Luca’s ear; “Did you choose him, or did he choose you?” Luca played dumb and didn’t answer the question. It did leave people wondering what happened to turn Luca the Destroyer into Luca the Healer.

As James entered his room he found Astrid asleep on a cot she had set up next to his bed. She stirred and retrieved a hot water bottle from underneath her blanket and gave it to him before turning over and continuing her slumber.

After Luca left for his room, Emrys and Quentin spoke about Myrtle dying; Quentin cautioned Emrys to show restraint, feeling that Myrtle did not have to die and only did so because Emrys used his telekinetic powers to hurl debris towards the aberrant lord. Quentin made sure to explain that he did not feel like Emrys was to blame, but that caution was necessary when innocent civilians were around.

After about five hours, certainly nowhere near getting a full night’s rest, the heroes were awoken by the rowdy banter of people in the tavern. All but Luca decided to go downstairs to have breakfast and see what the ruckus was about. Several teams of fishermen, all in the employ of lord Peregrine Blackwell, had converged on Kingsport. There was a team from the Tiverton Glades, who had gotten stuck behind the orc horde. Another was a team of dwarven fishermen from Ard Thoradun who lord Peregrine had poached from lord Aberforth Dunkeswell during the course of the competition. Then there was a combination of two teams under the leadership of Ser Liam of the Cloakwoods, who had come from Eastmarsh and Dunashire, and some of the heroes remembered seeing them in Rivermeet, as they were being held up by the Red Custodians. The only team that was still outstanding was a team from Southernhay, under the leadership of lord Peregrine himself; they were still en route.

Luca stayed in his room and decided to take a crack at transcribing the spell scroll they had found in the dragon’s lair. As he was readying his things he found a small wooden statuette in one of his pockets. It was widdled into the shape of a wizard holding a staff, and Luca knew it to belong to Hamish, as it matched the same style of widdling as the other figures they had found in his room and brought to Vydia for her to use in her scrying.

Reinvigorated, Luca went downstairs to get everything together. While having breakfast Luca explained that he either wanted to go to Vydia, or somehow confront the night master. It was clear that the warlock was not ready to give up on the fate of his friend, whether he was bound by a crown of flesh or not.

Unexpected Days Off

Because I’m still quite new to many things in the United Kingdom, like the public holidays, I am often a bit surprised by them. Like this week I learned that next Monday is the May bank holiday Monday. It’s a pleasant surprise and reminds me of how I used to get surprised by holidays when I was in school.

“See you on Monday, guys!”
“Eh, yeah, Monday in a week!”
“Wait what?”
“Yes, it’s spring break, you idiot!”

A Stifling Environment

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

The Aberrant Lords

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

Second Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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