Author Archives: Dennis

Abjuration and Divination

Previously, some of the heroes were afflicted by what felt like disturbing, prophetic dreams. Luca was the exception, and he woke up with a content, radiant warmth inside of him instead. The ones afflicted by the dreams discussed their possible meaning, but decided to redirect their attention to the tasks at hand; get Astrid a new weapon, while James visited the day master. After that, they stopped off at Dr. Arkenward’s home in Old Town, where they met his wife, Vydia, a member of the aen adhar and oracle. She was injured and had a bandage across her eye, but was kind enough to invite the heroes into her home and have a conversation.

Ninth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

The conversation with Vydia had mostly been an introduction to her and her relationship with her husband and James, who had not taken a seat and had been standing in a corner, had run out of patience and asked her directly about that tablet Dr. Arkenward had retrieved from the royal art collection. He assured Vydia that the heroes only cared to keep the tablet safe.

According to Vydia her husband had kept the tablet in a hidden chamber accessible from his study. She had never been inside that hidden chamber for reasons she remained vague on, so she couldn’t explain on how to find the entrance. She did admit that while her husband was standing vigil over the queen, intruders had come to find the tablet and she had lead them to her husband’s study.

She explained that there were at least three people who came; two were wearing strange, elongated hoods which reminded her of the plague masks she had seen during the lockdown of Grimsdown. There was another person, a man with a black, scraggly beard and foul breath smelling of wine. She didn’t remember getting hit in the head, but she remembers coming to and not being able to see out of one eye due to swelling.

James expressed his concern for Vydia’s safety and suggested she leave Kingsport and not return for a while. She was visibly warmed by his concern and asked him his name. James hesitated for a moment but eventually shared it with her.

It was at that moment that Luca convinced Vydia to let him look at her eye and see if he could provide her with some aid. They both went upstairs to the front room where there was more light. When asked if he was a healer, Luca was evasive. When he had cleared her eye from the bandage he saw that her eye was swollen completely shut. He managed to feel around Vydia’s eye and could have sworn he felt something wriggle underneath her skin. Luca managed to pry the eye open and he found that her eye was so completely bloodshot that her entire eyeball appeared black.

After sharing his concerns with the rest, both Luca and James tried again to convince Vydia to leave her home. She was unwilling to do so, not least of all because of her husband. Luca performed a short ritual, calling upon the warm, radiant light of Aurion to relieve the swelling in Vydia’s eye. To his delight, and to Vydia’s comfort, the swelling went down significantly and inspecting the eye more became possible. It was clear to Luca that there was significant damage to Vydia’s eye which had left a hole, and it explained why she still couldn’t see much.

The conversation turned to the Steady Hand; Luca remembered that when he had joined James to visit the day master when they went to retrieve James’ mother, that the conversation between him and the day master had turned to a person by the name of the Upright Man and his interest in the tablets. Unbeknownst to the rest of the heroes, James had found one of Atilesceon’s journal entries that mentioned that the Upright Man had more than one tablet in their collection of antiquities. Quentin wanted to know what James’ position in the guild was and why they could be after the tablets, to which responded that he didn’t know and thought it might be for monetary gain. Emrys concluded that Quentin’s silence meant he did not have any heavy moral objections.

It was time for the heroes to inspect Dr. Arkenward’s study, especially in light of the intruders that had entered before them, but had never returned. Vydia had given the heroes the steer that there was a blank wall that they should investigate and quickly a ring of tiny, coloured crystals could be found on the wall. Emrys concluded that if Arkenward would cast the same translocation spell over and over, like he must have done in his chambers in the castle, he probably had a magical item nearby that would make it easier. Luca immediately started to perform a ritual that would expose him to the weave of magic.

Once done, he found that there was a brass statue of a carp which emitted a magical aura. The statue was set on an ebony base carved in the shape of waves, and had a glass waterspout coming from the mouth of the fish. The aura was one of faint conjuration and abjuration magic. After experimenting with it, James went to ask Vydia whether her husband had a phrase she had heard him repeat, or if she knew some other way that he used to activate the portal.

While Luca was investigating ways to activate the statue, James asked Emrys to talk to Vydia about possibly asking Dr. Arkenward, if he’s awake, some questions. Vydia engaged Emrys about his name while Luca continued dressing her bandage. She knew it to be an aen adhar name meaning “endless one”. She also remembered his parents name and asked after them, not knowing that Catriona had died a long time ago.

Soon after, she started opening up about her own upbringing as a child being magically gifted in the environment of the aen adhar, and the inevitable disappointment she turned into. This resonated with Emrys, especially when she asked him if he, too, had been brought to an elder, a mentor, with the intent of finding what it was that the Mohiam were looking for. Emrys explained that during one of the sessions with his mentor he lost control of his magic and made his mentor disappear. This made Vydia fall silent for a moment.

In that moment, Luca asked about the prophecy that the aen adhar believed in, and Emrys decided to open up to Vydia about Lauriel, whom she knew as Moonwhisper, the founder of the aen adhar and all of the machinations of the Mohiam. Vydia said she did not care about the Mohiam or their prophecies. She was too concerned with the visions she had herself to care about the visions of a long dead progenitor of the tribe. She started to weep and explained that for nine days she has had dreams about her father. He was stuck in a bleak, dark landscape, behind bars. His voice was raw from screaming, over and over; Emrys, the ever-living. Emrys was overwhelmed with emotion, and he made his way downstairs and into the kitchen.

Quentin followed Emrys and tried to console him. He asked if Emrys was alright, and the half elf said that he was unable to accept that all the actions he’s ever taken were predetermined by someone who’s been dead for thousands of years. It made him feel powerless. Quentin was unable to offer him anything but sympathy; “I know a bit about the weight of expectations resting on your shoulders, so if you ever want to scream into a pillow, let me know.” Emrys thanked him and stalked around the ground floor for a little while before going back upstairs.

All the while, James went to visit Dr. Arkenward in his bedroom and spoke to him. He seemed to be doing better, but only barely. After finding that the bed-ridden abjurer could only make moaning sounds, James instructed him to moan once for yes, and twice for no. Once that was established, the young rogue started asking questions. His first question was to ask whether the queen was okay, to which Dr. Arkenward moaned twice, indicating that she wasn’t. James then established that Arkenward knew that there had been intruders who had been after the tablet.

When Luca joined James at Arkenward’s bedside they quickly discovered that either a conjuration or abjuration spell cast upon the brass statue would open a portal. Luca used some of the radiant powers bestowed upon him by Aurion to ease Arkenward’s suffering, and James told Luca that they would have to have a conversation about those new abilities some day soon.

The heroes gathered in Arkenward’s study in front of the door, while Vydia stood in the doorway, unwilling to enter the chamber. Once Luca cast a simple conjuration spell on the statue, the familiar sound of an ever-receding wave filled the room while an oval, black disk with a rim of shimmering light being sucked inward opened up. Quentin decided to test his bravery and entered the portal first, after which James quipped to Luca by asking him if he could close the portal then, so as to be rid of the knight. Before Luca could answer, James went through the portal. Emrys encouraged Luca to go next.

 

When Luca was through, Emrys turned to Vydia and said that he hoped the portal’s collapse wouldn’t damage the house, and stepped through. As the portal began to collapse, Vydia suddenly stepped forward in a panic, and revealed at the last moment that her father, who had been her mentor, was Voriel Moiranach.

Dreams and a New Direction

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

Ninth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two Friends, One Lost and One Found

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

Eighth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Flick of Hares

21 September – A Flick of Hares

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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