Author Archives: Dennis

Chapada Diamantina

This year, Joasia and I returned to Brazil to spend time with her brother and his family. He recently welcomed a baby boy, which was a perfect excuse to go and visit for the holidays. When we visited in 2015, we took Joasia’s parents with us and decided to split off from the group and go for a week eco-tourism in Bonito in the south. We had a great time trekking through the jungle, bathing under waterfalls and swimming down rivers. So much so that we decided to do something like that again.

Upon arrival in Brazil, we took a flight from São Paulo to Lençóis in the middle of the state of Bahia. This is an old mining town of eight thousand people, close to Chapada Diamantina, a national park filled with forests, rivers, caves and waterfalls. We had a spectacular time, doing an excursion each day; some of them easy, and some of them quite challenging.

The challenge was ramped up due to the heat. With it being the start of summer in Brazil, temperatures in Lençóis were expected to go northward of 35 degrees Celsius. This meant breaking several of my own rules in order to prevent me from dying of a heat stroke; wearing shorts and wearing a hat.

The temperature was a big difference with Bonito, which was also warm, but not like Lençóis. Guides sometimes spoke English, and the organisation who organised our excursions made sure that our guides could communicate with us, which made things much easier than in Bonito, where we were often left to other people in our group that could translate for us, which wasn’t always the case.

Another thing which was a significant difference was the poverty; apparently the northern states, like Bahia, are less prosperous than the southern ones, and while in Lençóis itself it wasn’t that apparent, apart from a general “frontier town” feel that lacked basic infrastructure and facilities (like proper waste management), but the poverty ramped up quickly in the (even) more rural parts around the area.

I found that there were many buildings that had been built and simply never finished completely. Building materials scattered around, waiting to be used, sometimes for weeks, months or years. One of our guides, Indio, said that this was often due to funding running out, usually due to a lack of contingency planning, foolish optimism, or misappropriation. For instance, a little, two-storey house with a beautiful façade, which lacked even a roof for the second floor, effectively making it a single-storey house.

Another annoyance which my Teutonic brain couldn’t comprehend was that lots of the dirty roads around the small villages were so poorly maintained that we saw lots of cars changing tires alongside the road due to punctures from the sharp rocks. If I were living in one of these villages I would get some people together and literally sweep the roads and clear them of rocks. It would save everyone a ton in car repairs.

In order to keep my frustration at this at a minimum I have told myself that there is likely a very good reason why they don’t that I can’t think of.

Chapada Diamantina was also much drier than Bonito, which meant there was less jungle vegetation and more so-called “Atlantic forest” and savannah vegetation. The soil had this deep, dark red colour, which reminded me of clay and ceramics. Salamanders were everywhere, hunting flies, or baking in the scorching sun. And yet, most days started off cloudy, which quite a few mornings seeing rain showers. There were many rivers, pools, lakes and waterfalls. The vegetation around those was immediate bright green and lush, more jungle like.

The landscape was dotted with “chapadas”, which are hills and mountains with a ramp on one side, a plateau on top, with a sheer, sudden drop on the other side. These created large, beautiful valleys, full of small trails to hike, rivers to follow and waterfalls to explore. We did rather pedestrian excursions most of the time, with a few challenges to our legs and lungs at times, but the real pros did multi-day treks lasting three, four and sometimes five days, camping in the wild or sleeping in abandoned houses that used to belong to the miners.

Until the mid-eighties, the area was a wealthy mining area, looking mostly for diamonds. The techniques used in the mining industry was polluting the ground water so much, spoiling drinking water all the way to Salvador on the coast to the east, that mining was mostly prohibited and the remainder heavily restricted. The are became poor overnight as they lost their entire source of incoming. Soon, a large part was designated a national park, which meant no development of any kind could take place. Some villages, like Lençóis were so historic that they were given dispensation, but all other areas became depopulated as people (were) moved away. Around the park, areas were designated as “protected for preservation of nature” which meant development was allowed but restricted.

Pretty quickly the people in the area started to find new ways of generating incoming, tourism being the biggest of them. They are proud of the beautiful sites they have to offer. A lot of them were very special, too special to really capture in photos properly.

Escaping the Madness

Previously, the adventurers found themselves inhabiting the bodies of several crusaders caught inside of Atilesceon’s recurring dimension in which the same hellish day in which the crusaders suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of a demonic horde. They found that all of the crusaders were compelled to act out the same battle over and over, and for most it had meant their minds were destroyed. The fabled knight Estienne was one of the few who had some semblance of sanity and he explained many things. When the battle started the adventurers found themselves unprepared for the chaos and fear that washed over them, and some fled, while others futilely participated in the battle. Whether they fought or fled, it made no matter as eventually the battle played out as it had so many times before and the crusaders were defeated and their corpses nailed to the walls of Atilesceon’s tower. After their defeat they once again woke up in the same position, at the start of the same day.

Second Day, Third Wik, Æftera Līþa (Pasture Mōnaþ), 736th Year of the Crusade

The adventurers quickly gathered at the commander’s tent and let Emma perform her ritual of calmness in order for everyone to put their terror of what happened to them to rest. The first thing was to keep Gorden, the house Sheridan guard who had accompanied Lord Destan and the only one of his retinue to stay behind in Old Llygad, from committing suicide. Quentin went to find him and after explaining what was going on saw the relief on Gorden’s face. He eagerly came along to talk to the adventurers.

Gorden managed to share a few important details that filled in the blanks and confirmed several suspicions. Quentin was indeed part of the expedition until being separated from the rest inside the Crimson Tower and he was genuinely relieved to hear Quentin had survived. He also explained that under Lord Destan’s command they had penetrated the tower in Old Llygad in search for the Ritual of Returning. They had found the tower richly adorned, filled with wealth and opulence, with many curious servants.

Lord Destan and his group had performed the ritual on a spot in the woods to the south east of the lake, which the adventurers recognised as Isobel’s Vale. They had gotten Patrick, squire to Ser Gregorian, to be their volunteer in the ritual. Luca remarked that it was inconsistent with what they learned from the Bristlecone villagers, who had found Jenna, Robart, and who the adventurers now knew to be Ser Edric, to the north of the path leading to Hunter’s Hollar.

The ritual went awry, and Gorden could tell something was wrong. At the same time the demons were closing in on the vale. Attempting to complete the ritual, Lord Destan commanded Mark and Gorden to protect him, but Mark lost his nerve and charged through the opening portal. Jenna and Robart were transformed back to their own bodies as they headed through the portal, but that is where Gorden died.

Afterwards, when Gorden awoke once again, he found that Mark, Jenna and Robart were no longer in camp, and that Lord Destan, presumably still in the body of Ser Edric, was unconscious. He spoke with Ser Estienne and decided that if the ones who escaped survived and managed to call for help, he would have to survive enough iterations with his mind in tact. He decided the best way was to commit suicide before each battle for as long as his willpower would allow and before the compulsion had him in its grasp. Quentin was deeply shocked that Ser Estienne would suggest such morbidity and he started to mistrust the nature of the fabled Knight of Flowers.

When the adventurers explained that they were sent by house Sheridan and that Mark, Jenna and Robert made it back, Gorden was incredibly relieved and immediately willing to help the group with whatever they needed. Quentin decided to wilfully lie to Gorden and tell him that his companions made it back safely.

In an attempt to rouse the unconscious form of Ser Edric, James attempted to perform some of the magical powers that Dame Josephine was rumoured to posses. Strangely, he had the innate ability to perform these spells, even though he himself had never studied on how to perform them. He spread the fingers of one hand and concentrated for a moment before a jet of flame burst from his hand, severely burning Ser Edric, his clothes, his bed linen, and several items around him. But it did not wake him.

Inspired by James’ attempt to access Dame Josephine’s gifts, Emrys called upon the Platinum Father to heal Ser Edric’s wounds and found himself a perfect conduit for His divine energy. A halo formed around his head and his hands glowed with radiant energy which flowed into the blistered form of Ser Edric, stitching together the badly burnt skin and smoothing it over, leaving him perfectly healthy, albeit in tattered, burnt clothes. James then took Edric’s hand and found an identical burn mark on Edric’s palm as he had on his and the same as the Edric he had seen in Isobel’s care. James carefully gave Edric some water to drink to see whether he would have an involuntary response, which he did; Edric slowly drank little bits of water. James then began talking to Edric while holding his hand, lying to him about the state of his family. He was trying to provoke an emotional response from the unconscious man, which he received when a light frown came across the young knight’s face.

The conversation between the adventurers quickly turned to what to do next. From the time of their wake up, until the time the bells tolled and the march to the tower began, they only had five hours, and there was a lot for them left to discover. Ideas were raised, from storming the tower, to letting devour all of the crusaders, to finding a way to reach out to the demons and forming an alliance for freedom. The consensus became that the best way was to break the curse and help the crusaders defeat the demonic horde. For that, the adventurers needed more information and see whether they could change some of the details of the battle. In particular, they were interested to know where the ambushers came upon the infantry and where it was they were coming from, the thought being that they were already in Old Llygad, and could possibly be preempted or obstructed before hand.

Emrys and Quentin made their way to Lauriel’s tent to talk to her about some of the confusing things she said the previous day. Along the way, Quentin shared his concerns about Ser Estienne. He felt that the knight was behaving strangely and Quentin was starting to mistrust him. He hoped that Emrys would keep an eye out for any signs that Ser Estienne was not the ally they thought he was.

They found Lauriel in reverie to the Moonmaiden inside her tent. Many things became clear to Emrys during his conversation. He learned about the mysterious Sehanine priestess Mohiam, who had been granted a vision by the Moonmaiden about an unfathomably complex mixing of different human and elven bloodlines to produce a prophet who would be able to permanently restore the Seal of Divine Animus. Mohiam was the leader of a cult who were all working towards the goal of mixing the right bloodlines in order to find this prophet. From what Lauriel explained, some of the things each of the members was required to do seemed almost random; introducing people, deposing leaders, uplifting nobility, ordering assassinations, starting wars…

She herself had been tasked to start a new tribe of elves called the Aen Adhar, the children of the moon, of which Emrys was a product. She was only known to them as “Moonwhisper”, a name Emrys had heard all throughout his childhood. They were taught just enough about the prophecy to do what Mohiam needed them to do. Over centuries the Aen Adhar turned into a magireligious cult that Emrys so despised.

Quentin learned that Lauriel had been given a second task; to improve elven-human relations by marrying Prior Benedict McAllister. She would then use her influence to prevent Dame Josephine LaValette from strengthening her house and allowing it to unify the tribes of Celticia, now modern day Beauclair, and found the first kingdom on the continent. Instead, the house was deprived of their legendary daughter, which left it influential, but not dominant. With the help of Mohiam’s followers, house LaValette would be manipulated to one day become the royal house of another kingdom; now known as house Valois, the ruling house of Lyria.

Upon his return to the commander’s tent, Emrys took a moment to tap into the divine connection that prior Benedict held with Paladine and extended his senses to feel out the corruption in the hearts of those inside the tent. Intent on only getting a measure of Ser Estienne, Emrys found that the only really dreadful thing in the tent was Blackstar.

In the meantime, Luca had gone to speak to the priests of Pholtus, who he felt would be better served among the infantry on the battlefield, rather than be held back at camp to tend to the dying and wounded coming back from the battle. What would come back for them from the battlefield was death, and if Luca could convince them to join the infantry, they might make a difference. Luca found the priests in a large tent preparing ointments, poultices and potions. He spoke to one of the priests who would acknowledge him and wasn’t simply playing their part in the story of their horrible defeat. Luca managed to convince the priest to commit his order to march with the infantry. The priest raised his hands to the pale sun in the heavens in supplication and began instructing the others on their new mission.

Afterwards, James and Luca decided to search the camp for anything out of the ordinary. James was going to pay special attention to any correspondence he could find, as well as any items that might be magical. Luca was mostly interested to find more interesting people, and hopefully some that, like Ser Estienne, had retained some of their original vibrancy and could hopefully shake off the effects of the curse.

Near the edge of the camp, close to the treeline, Luca stumbled upon a camp that was made up of mostly dwarves. They had set up their tents around a large rock that was jutting out of the ground, and they were all chiselling away at it under the direction of one dwarf who was dictating to them in the dwarven tongue. Near them stood a squire with the same dead eyes that the others around camp had shown. She was helping the dwarves by handing them hammers and chisels when they needed them. Luca saw that the young knight wore the herald of a noble house that looked familiar to him; the head of a red stallion. Unfortunately, he couldn’t put his finger on where he had seen it before, nor whose house it belonged to.

Luca quickly came to learn that the dwarves had taken to recording as much information as they could in a very complicated form of dwarven shorthand. His attempts to read it were for naught; he would need more time to study the runic script the dwarves were using in order to make nor tails out of it. He found out that the dwarves were under the leadership of Ser Kadagar Ashbeard, and that the woman was his squire.

James had found many different letters, both personal as well as strategic, which gave him the impression that the crusaders had set out their expedition with the full conviction that they would undoubtedly succeed in their mission. He also learned that there were many other conflicts that the crusaders were involved in, and that the fighting had spread to every corner of the continent. During his search, he also came across a very unusual looking robe and a beautiful brooch in the shape of a scarab, which lit up with curious symbols when he held it.

As James was planning on returning to Luca with the robe and the brooch, he heard the bells toll and the camp got ready to move out once again. The adventurers had decided that most of them would go on to support the infantry, including the priests of Pholtus, as well as Lauriel. Luca gave Ser Florian’s battle lance to Quentin, who would use it by joining the cavalry. And lastly, James would take to the air on the back of Tourbillon, taking Hejduk along with him in order to survey the battlefield from up on high.

The battle started and the cavalry set in the charge against the demons on the shore, while high overhead the air cavalry were engaging the flying demons. Due to a lack of Dame Josephine’s involvement in the aerial battle, the demons slowly took the upper hand. But it afforded James a good view of the surroundings. While Quentin was thundering his horde alongside the cavalry and the rest were laying in wait with the rest of the ambushers, James could see that the tower was quiet and that there was no other activity right before the rifts started to appear in the tree line. This meant that the demon ambushers were not laying in wait somewhere and they could not preempt the ambush itself.

Three portals opened up in the woods through which hundreds of demons came pouring forth. Emrys, in the guise of Prior Benedict, kept the moral of the infantry in check and commanded them to aid the cavalry and follow the original plan. He then used the divine might of the Platinum Father to disrupt several demon’s advance, and then used the strange magical pipes to send several of the smaller demons scurrying. Luca used the power of the Lyrium crystal he carried with him to keep some of the demons at bay, while casting bolt after bolt of eldritch energy into the incoming onslaught of demons. Astrid could be seen darting through the forest with incredible speed, attacking the demons with a frenzy and a fury that was unmatched by anyone but the most wicked monsters on the battlefield. Emma called upon the power of Sedna to conjure up a powerful tidal wave, which held the demons at bay for a time. Lauriel, strengthened by the adventurer’s steadfastness, created a shimmering symbol made from the purest moonlight, which exploded in devastating energy when the demons were almost upon them, felling many of them.

In the meantime, the infantry, supported by the priests of Pholtus, had engaged the demons on the shore and managed to allow the cavalry to make their pass with minimal casualties. The cavalry managed to wheel about unhindered and set in a second charge, clashing into the ravenous demons once more. Quentin’s lance scored several piercing hits.

That’s when the adventurers holding off the ambushers were overwhelmed. The infantry was quickly caught between the hammer and anvil of the demons but fought valiantly to allow the cavalry to continue their charge and make an attempt to wheel about once more. During their third charge, the cavalry was overwhelmed.

From up on high, James saw all of this unfold and saw that the demons were making their way towards the artillery in order to support the flying demons. He set Tourbillon into a dive to keep the flying demons off his back and see if the elementals that were fuelling the protective dome around the tower would react to his presence. As he soared past, with the demons in tow, the elementals tried to take a swipe at him. He managed to get away unscathed but noticed that some of the demons trailing him weren’t so lucky. He decided to keep doing this to see how many demons he could get taken out like that, but eventually ran out of luck and one of the elemental heavy limbs crashed down like a tidal wave and he and Hejduk died, too.

Second Day, Third Wik, Æftera Līþa (Pasture Mōnaþ), 736th Year of the Crusade

The adventurers once again wake up feeling completely shaken to their core. They notice that with every death a piece of their resilience is lost and they can feel their willpower waning and the curse of the compulsion taking hold. Everyone gathers at the commander’s tent and Emma performed her ritual of stillness to calm everyone’s emotions and steadied everyone for the day ahead.

The conversation quickly turned to the successes of the previous day. Even though the battle was lost, they had learned several valuable lessons and quickly started to come up with new ideas on how the battle could be won.

While Luca performed the ritual of identification, using one of Isobel’s pearl earrings, on the jewellery the adventurers had retrieved from the Crimson Tower, James went to retrieve the unusual robes and the curious brooch for Luca to divine the properties of. Luca found that the jewellery was imbued with several magical properties which would greatly benefit the wearer, but there was a dark side to the set, which would leave the wearer weak willed and compliant. When Lauriel’s saw the set she screamed and nearly lost her sanity. She explained that it was a gift from Atilesceon to her, which she refused. Luca quickly surmised that the purpose of the jewellery was to protect Lauriel, keep her healthy and beautiful, but also make her subservient to Atilesceon.

A plan was formed for a preemptive strike. James ordered Ser Wentworth, who had been in charge of the artillery, to move the artillery just outside of camp and start preparing for a preemptive attack. He then moved on to the griffon riders and spectacularly convinced them to join in the attack. Quentin rallied a squad of archers and got Ser Estienne to commit his armsmen as archers as well.

It was not easy to pick up, but there seemed to be the slightest sliver of hope in the air.

Dreams of Dying

Previously, the adventurers, had entered the tower and started exploring the many floors after having found a young Beauclairois knight who was locked in the cellar. Quentin, as he called himself, had entered the tower together with Lord Destan, only to be separated from him and the rest of his expedition as he explored the lower level while they continued to venture to the higher floors. Together, they explored the library where they found much information in the different pages of Atilesceon’s private journal. They learned about his time at the Senhadrim, his personal rivalries, his interests, his research and ultimately about his downfall and the his attempts to serve his master, Mammon, the archduke of Minauros, the third level of Ba’ator. Ultimately, they discovered his bedroom, his workshop, and a portal guarded by a stone statue which attacked them. After defeating the statue, they decided to enter the portal.

Second Day, Third Wik, Æftera Līþa (Pasture Mōnaþ), 736th Year of the Crusade

Each of the adventurers were assailed by the same terrible dream in which they were followed by a dark horse with flaming hooves. Luca was chased through an abandoned monastery, while Quentin was running through a hedgerow maze. Emrys was chased through an elven ruin, littered with human bodies, while James was trying to escape through the sewers. The damp and earthy smell reminded each of them of something which initially set them upon their individual quests which lead them to the Crimson Tower.

With each flash of the nightmare that was riding them down, they saw the future; of places foreign and familiar, in which a new age of fear had sparked violence and drove people to atrocities. Eventually the horrible images revealed that some people became corrupted by the chaos of demonic hordes, while others became corrupted by the cruelty of the infernal legions. Two armies were set to clash, one were beastly and ravenous in their appetite for destruction, while the other were disciplined and methodical in their wickedness. In between stood a small band of soldiers, dressed in steel armour coloured red white and blue, lead by golden warriors with wings of light. This band would be pulverised between the hammer of demons and the anvil of devils.

Then the nightmare was upon the adventurers and thundered its flaming hooves down on them, mortally wounding them. They were each shown what their spilled blood would cause; Luca saw fungus growing rapidly and spreading noxious spores. Quentin saw the hedges around him wither and die, the blight spreading outward with his death at its epicentre. Emrys watch his blood seep into the veins of the marble of the ruins, pulsing angrily until the dead bodies around him opened red, glowing eyes. James saw his blood mix with the sewage and spill down a drain, from which a strange eye stalk rose up to observe him as he drew his last, ragged breath.

Emrys woke up at an elegant writing desk in a large tent. He was holding a quill and the letter in front of him was one addressed to his beloved Lauriel and spoke of being wed after the military expedition was over. The letter then turned into a series of scratching, profanity before ending with a plea to Paladine to let death take him. Emrys did not remember writing the letter nor did he understand the contents. He suddenly noticed his arms were not his own, and when he found a mirror confirmed that the face looking back at him as he peered in it was not his own, but that of a black haired, bearded human man. The tent held a tactical table with a map of what he later concluded was Pinefall, in particular of the north-western corner of Lake Llygad and its strand. There were two beds in the tent, one of which was holding the unconscious body of a man he recognised as the tracker from Isobel’s hut. He could not be awoken. There were armour stands, weapon racks and a shrine dedicated to Paladine. He eventually learned that he was inhabiting the body of Prior Benedict McAllister, knight-captain in the Order of the Gryphon and devout paladin to the Platinum Father and leader of the military expedition to Gwenllygad.

Luca awoke in a modest tent, with a bed, a chest filled with personal belongings, an armour stand holding a beautiful set of platinum gilded armour, like that of the Order of the Lance as wel as a set of weapons, including a shield bearing the lightning struck oak tree of house Ironwood, whom he last saw in the hands of Ser Florianus when the adventurers met him on their way to Pinefall, watched him ramble and wither away to die before burying his remains and using the shield as a grave marker. When Luca looked down at his own hands, he saw a shock of golden curls tumble past his face; he was inhabiting the body of Ser Florianus. Luca was comforted by the fact that Blackstar was still by his side.

For James the wake up was both more pleasant and more strange. He found himself setting at a dressing table in front of a mirror, in the body of a comely, strong woman with long auburn hair and a long neck. Behind him a short haired woman was brushing his hair, using a ivory-handled brush, decorated with mother of pearl, set with soft, white bristles. The tent he was in was enormous and opulent, set with furniture, carpets and decorations. There were three beds and three armour stands, each holding a splendid plate armour gilded with lapis lazuli. One of the beds was large and richly made up, and the armour next to it was adorned with sapphires and aquamarines. The woman behind him had dark rings around her eyes and looked she performed her tasks with a haunted reluctance. A handsome man came into the tent and announced in archaic Beauclairois, which James was surprised to learn he understood, that Tourbillon was saddled and groomed, before starting to don his own armour. James didn’t know who Tourbillon was, but noticed that the man had the same dark rings and tired look about his eyes. By talking to two squires — or écuyer — he found that he was inhabiting the body of Dame Josephine LaValette, a knight in the Order of the Gryphon.

Finally, Quentin woke up in a modest tent listening to the sounds of a melancholic tune being played on a harp outside. He found his bearing and looked outside of the tent to find a military camp filled with soldiers. His tent was standing next to a larger tent, outside of which stood a handsome man, casually playing the harp. He was remarkable, not only for the harp, but also for the way in which he was observing the rest of the people in camp. There was a great sadness in his eyes. At his side was an unusual wooden scabbard, adorned with what looked like living vines, which occasionally sprouted small buds which quickly grew and blossomed into flowers, before withering away. It became apparent to Quentin that the man with the harp was the legendary Ser Estienne d’Epines and the sword at his side was Fleur, the Sword of Flowers. He also quickly realised that he was inside the body of Durand de Palemerin, Ser Estienne’s squire. Looking around the camp, he spotted an enormous tent who was flying the herald of the LaValette family, an ancient house from the time before Beauclair formed as a kingdom. He decided to head there, hoping to find some answers.

The camp was filled with dozens of knights, hundreds of armsmen. There were artillery engines, horses, griffons, tradesmen, teamsters, cooks, and the supplies necessary to support an expedition of more than six hundred people. It was tricky at first, but it didn’t take long before everyone had found each other and was gathering at the tent that Emrys had awoken in. It had a tactical map of the area and it held the unconscious body of the tracker in Isobel’s care, whom they learned was Ser Edrick the Strong.

Astrid was found to inhabit the body of the seven foot tall monstrosity by the name of Ser Gregorian Longshadow. The adventurers had met him in the presence of the Ser Edrick on the shores of Lake Llygad the previous evening, during the clash of the cavalcades. Ser Gregorian was followed around by his squire Patrick, who kept trying to convince Astrid to keep her armour donned, something she absolutely refused.

Emma found herself inhabiting the body of Dame Victoria Greywater, from the eastern black bogs, not a reference anyone had heard of. She had been afflicted by a voice inside her head who was only screaming incoherently. It had given Emma a headache, which she tried to treat with a ritual at the nearby river where she was found by Luca.

At the river, they were witness to a handful of people who had walked into the deep end of the river to be taken by the current. Another suicide happened in front of the commander’s tent, where a dead-eyed man opened his own throat with a knife and bled out while people nearby seemed not to notice. It became very clear that most people in the camp were acting like very strangely. Some were going through what looked to be well-practised motions, while others were acting out of sorts, committing suicide, weeping, screaming, or just sitting still in catatonia.

While talking to one another in the comfort of the commander’s tent the adventurers started to piece together what was happening to them. They quickly realised that they were about to replay the events of the battle at Gwenllygad where the crusaders would be betrayed by the Senhadrim mage Atilesceon. With the help of Blackstar, Luca confirmed that all of their bodies housed a soul, and a faint, secondary soul, which likely belonged to the original crusader. Both Emma and Quentin had been able to hear a voice inside their head and identify it as their host’s soul, but Quentin had not been able to commune with them, and for Emma it proved impossible due to the state of insanity that the soul was in. Quentin shared his suspicion that Ser Estienne was unlike many of the other crusaders in camp, and he was quickly summoned.

Ser Estienne was indeed unlike the other crusaders. He explained that this day had been played out countless of times and that everyone was compelled to play their part, always with the same outcome. As time wore on, everyone’s ability to resist the compulsion to play their part was worn away until most people were nothing but mindless automatons. He explained that he believed that the magic of his sword was what had protected him and allowed him to retain some of his sanity, but that the sword had lost much of its power over time. Eventually, when the magic in the sword had depleted, he too would succumb.

The crusaders, Ser Estienne explained, were cursed to remain in Old Llygad for all eternity replaying the events over and over again. Many people had entered over the ages, some of them managed to escape, leaving the crusaders behind, and some of them had failed to escape and eventually merged completely with the crusader whose body that were inside of. Ser Estienne believed that the curse could only be broken by winning the battle for Old Llygad.

The knight also shared more details about the battle, about the betrayal, and about what was going to happen later that day. This was the original plan; air cavalry would engage the flying demons attacking Atilesceon’s tower, supported by artillery, preventing them from harassing the ground troops. At the same time, the cavalry would charge the demons on the shores of the lake in formation. After the first charge, as the cavalry was wheeling around and preparing for their second charge, the infantry would emerge from their ambush inside the treeline and engage the demons on the shore, allowing for the cavalry to get ready for another pass.

But this is not how the battle played out. Instead of the infantry completing their ambush, they themselves were ambushed by demons emerging from portals that opened up with frightening precision behind them in the woods. The infantry were attacked in the back, routed, and the cavalry went unsupported and therefore found themselves out of position and quickly overwhelmed as they tried to wheel around. Once the demons collapsed the rear guard and overwhelmed the artillery, the air cavalry was doomed, and eventually the entire camp of civilians with them.

On occasion, Atilesceon would change a few things about the battle, especially early on. He would give them exotic weapons, strange mounts, others siege engines, different numbers, different opponents, but the result was always the same; he would look on from his tower and observe how the crusaders were defeated and defiled as their bodies were nailed to the tower walls by the victorious demons.

Lauriel Skycaller, the Senhadrim priestess of Sehanine Moonbow, who was to be wed to Prior Benedict upon completion of the expedition, and who was the one that Atilesceon was obsessed with before his fall, was also called to the commander’s tent for conversation, but her mind seemed too fractured, she was too disturbed, to yield any immediately useful information.

When the bells started to toll, everyone in camp started to get ready for their departure south, along the river, in order to engage the demons on the shores of Lake Llygad. Most of the crusaders remained dead-eyed as they started to move out. James decided not to fly out on Tourbillon, her tempestuous griffon, but instead ride out on horse back together with the rest. The plan was to ride for the tower and try to gain entry.

When the lake finally came into view, it was apparent that demons were already skirmishing on the shore in front of the tower. From afar the aberrant monstrosities looked like a crawling chaos. They came in all shapes and sizes, each defying description in their hideousness. High up in the sky, winged demons were circling the tower, probing its defences. Surrounding the tower was a shimmering dome made of what seemed like a thin sheet of water. At the base of the dome, on four sides of the tower, strange water creatures could be seen fuelling the dome. The creatures were large and closely matched the descriptions given by the Bristlecone villagers of Lady Llyn, the protector of lake Llygad.

Each of the adventurers were deeply shaken by the sight of the demonic horde. The crusaders marched on, the infantry breaking away early to enter the woods and flank from the west while the cavalry rode out in formation and the griffons riders flying in overhead, supported by the scorpion ballistae shooting bolts the size of small trees at the winged demons above the tower.

Both James and Astrid failed to steel themselves against the horror that was about to play out and decided that getting drunk back at camp would be preferable than to stay to watch the crusaders’ inevitable defeat. The realisation that they were trapped in a reality which was playing out over and over was too much for their minds to comprehend and so they turned their horses and fled back to camp. Quentin, disgusted at the sight of such cowardice went in pursuit, while the others merely stood, awestruck at the unfolding carnage.

At camp, Quentin was incapable of convincing James to stand his ground as he relied on Dame Josephine’s abilities to mount Tourbillon and take to the skies. On the back of the alabaster griffin he flew as far north as the bird would take him but soon found himself enveloped in mist, turned around and heading back south. After several attempts he landed the griffon in a nearby clearing and drank himself into a stupor until the horde of demons finally caught up with him as they had with each of his companions. He died drunk and screaming.

Second Day, Third Wik, Æftera Līþa (Pasture Mōnaþ), 736th Year of the Crusade

After each of the adventurers suffered a violent death at the hands of the demonic horde, side by side with the rest of the crusaders, they once again awoke in the same place, in the same position, in the same bodies, at the exact same time on the exact same day as before. The felt nauseous and incredibly shaken by what they had experienced, but luckily they found each other much more easily and Emma managed to perform a divine ritual that calmed everyone’s nerves and they once again felt back in control. They did, however, realise that with every death they would suffer, their resolve to simply comply with the compulsion the rest of the crusaders were under would erode.

They made plans to see if they could talk to the Senhadrim priestess, to find Gorden, the remaining house Sheridan guard that is in camp somewhere, and to search the camp for any writings that would give them a better idea of the situation in camp before the assault. All in the hopes to find a way to defeat Atilesceon, to break the curse that holds the crusaders in its grasp, and to find their way back to Pinefall.

Reminder: Disable ReSharper Renaming

  • Visual Studio -> Tools -> Options -> Environment -> Keyboard: search for Refactor.Rename and set it to Ctrl+R, R (or Ctrl+R, Ctrl+R). And renaming will once again be done on this shortcut. But it will still use the ReSharper refactoring window.
  • ReSharper.ReSharper_Rename: remove all entries.
  • Visual Studio -> ReSharper -> Options -> Keyboards & Menus -> Uncheck ‘Override Visual Studio Refactorings’ -> Save.

You’re welcome, future Dennis.