Category: Journal

A Mother and Son Reunited

Previously, the Heroes of the White Eye had managed to capture Kalina and separate her from the rest of the bandits she was hiding out with, only to come under attack from a group of shadowy creatures as they regrouped at the Scatterfoot farm. While the creatures were defeated, the Silesian bandit was killed by one of them. The heroes took her body and returned to Kingsport, preparing to bring the body to the day master together with what they had learned, hoping that it would be enough to liberate James’ mother from captivity.

Fifth Day, First Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

While Astrid and James had taken the cart carrying Kalina’s body to an abandoned shack in an anonymous part of Kingsport, Luca, Quentin and Emrys arranged for one of the luxurious rooms at the Careless Wanderer. Astrid and James eat their last remaining rations and shared a bottle of Pinefall brandy, and the others ate Ramsey’s wonderful food.

Astrid and James fell asleep in their clothes, warmed only by a small fire. Luca sat a small writing desk and read and studied Kalina’s prayer book. Quentin sat cross legged in front of the fire while he cleaned his blade while meditating; softly reciting the litanies and oaths of knighthood, slowly becoming one with the blade and the complicated spirit within. Emrys enjoyed the luxury of a four-poster bed, with his eyes closed; vast asleep.

It was deep in the night before Luca fell asleep, slumped over the writing desk he had been studying at. Before succumbing to fatigue, he had learned that the prayer book, written almost completely in the infernal language of Ba’ator, the lower plane of devils. It was called The Disciplines of the Dark Queen, which described all matters of worshipping Takhisis.

Sixth Day, First Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

After Astrid and James woke up, took a piss, and left the shack together with the horses, cart and morbid contents, they spent some time wandering the streets around Steward Square, finding some food for breakfast and enduring the weather.

Luca, Quentin and Emrys woke up and enjoyed breakfast in their room while they spoke about what Luca had learned from The Disciplines of the Dark Queen. One of the remarkable things that Luca had noticed is that besides the religious iconography of Takhisis, occasionally, the hooked pentagram of Asmodeus showed up; the adversary in the monotheistic religion of the Daerlan empire, Mazuria and most parts of Silesia.

At noon, when the pale sun stood highest in the dark, cloudy sky, Astrid and James made their way to the Careless Wanderer. Astrid stayed with the cart while James went inside to look for the others. He found the Wanderer was busy, but not rowdy, with many people still visiting for the angling competition which was about to commence. Durham, the friendly barkeep, directed James up to the rooms when he noticed the young elf looking around for his friends.

A quick plan was made to take the cart and transport Kalina’s body to the butcher shop on Fleet Street and negotiate for Jeanne’s release. Luca would come with James while Astrid, Quentin and Emrys remained outside, ready to either make a fast getaway, or be prepared to storm the shop in force. James would remain in contact with Quentin using Lauriel’s Earrings of Whispers.

On their way across town, while crossing the river at the Queensbridge, James spotted the reddish-haired town crier, Goodman, who hailed James. James stopped briefly and crier Goodman shook his hand, telling him it was good to see him again. During that exchange he surreptitiously passed James a note. As they rode on James read it; “Sold the horses, still in town,” it read, a note from Dick.

As they got closer to Fleet Street, the conversation became more detailed and intense, and people wanted to know just how dangerous the situation could become. It was clear to James that while his companions were all familiar with violence, they had no experience with the level of violence that an criminal organisation like the Steady Hand could bring to bear. In fact, he never had to deal with it, considering he had never stood in opposition to them. It took everything ounce of his acting ability for James to not let his discomfort and fear show.

When they arrived at the butcher shop, a corner store on Fleet Street, between the Street of Spices and the river, there were many guild members about, keeping an eye on the place. Inside, civilians were doing their groceries. James and Luca, who were disallowed from bringing their weapons inside the shop, carried Kalina’s wrapped corpse through the shop to the back. They were directed down the stairs into the basement and through a door, into a mostly empty room.

The day master was there with two of his guards, and James found his mother still tied to a chair, still in her filthy underclothes. Her skin was dirty and she was carrying many shallow wounds and bruises, and she had a bandage on her head which covered her left eye that hadn’t been there before. While the bandages were new, they had already been soaked through with blood and sweat, and it was hiding a grotesque swelling.

When Kalina’s body was unwrapped, the day master was dissatisfied and demanded an explanation. James explained everything that happened, and made it a point to recite, word for word, the conversation that he had heard Kalina had with her mysterious father back in the caves; a conversation he had not even shared with the rest of his companions.

Kalina: Father, are you displeased with me?

Unknown: Glasya, your attempt to draw the guild master out has not been successful. To say that I am pleased would be a lie. The only thing which comforts me is knowing that you understand how important it is to expose the Upright Man and to find his vault. You also understand that I can only keep your failure from the Dark Queen for so long before she will find out. I can only impress upon you that you must try again before she does.

Kalina: He exposed himself when he killed Lydia…

Unknown: Yes, but you were not there to capitalise on it, and from what you told me not much of her remained behind. Your attempt to have the day master assassinated also failed. You better think of another way to find the Upright Man! I MUST GET INSIDE HIS VAULT.

Kalina: But father…

Unknown: Silence! Do not disobey me *daughter*, or else you will be Xazax’s next victim.

Kalina: Father? Father!?

There was something about this conversation that seemed to rock the usually unflappable day master. James suspected that it was the revelation that Kalina and her father knew about the Upright Man being responsible for the death of Lydia, the dangerous leader of the Sunken Knuckles. There was more here, but James had other priorities.

While James explained the rest of what happened at the Reaverhaunt caves, Luca inspected James’ mother and her injuries. The day master still had a few questions about Kalina’s allegiance, if it wasn’t to the night master and the rest of the guild. Luca and James explained that the jewelled daggers were used by assassins who had been striking throughout eastern Lyria, which was something the day master had heard of, and that it likely had something to do with the Upright Man being in the possession of a a set of ancient tablets that this cult was after.

The day master seemed satisfied with the explanation and dismissed one of his guards to arrange for a meeting with a certain John for that evening. James knew that to be John Sharpe; also known as the night master. If the Upright Man was the leader of the Steady Hand, then the day master was his left hand, while the night master was his right hand.

The day master instructed to take Kalina and his mother, but pressed upon James that his mother was to leave Kingsport and never return, which James took in stride. Luca and James took both and walked through the front of the shop, through a wave of curious patrons, out the door.

Astrid gave Jeanne her cloak since she was barely clothed and the weather was miserable. Emrys drove the cart while James gave him directions to the Temple of Pholtus. On the way, James applied some of father Devon’s healing ointment to the most trouble parts of Jeanne’s skin, which immediately started to heal up. Her head wound was too grievous and would abate.

Once at the clinic, Jeanne was carried inside and father Devon was called for. He immediately took charge and called for several nurses to help out and for Mother Superior Arwyn to be called. James made sure to let father Devon know that no expenses should be spared, and the holy man told James to make an appropriate tithe at the temple. Which he did while the followers of Pholtus worked on healing his mother, leaving one of the gems he had received from the Sheridan estate in the tithe bowl.

When father Devon finally came to speak to the heroes he explained that Jeanne would be okay, but that she was still recovering. He showed a small ceramic jar in which he showed a curious slug with multiple eye stalks extending and retracting all over its body. He claimed that he had removed it from Jeanne’s eye, where it had lodged itself like a parasite. Unfortunately, it meant that Jeanne had lost her eye. She would recover, but it would take a little while.

James take his mother in his care once again when she was able to be moved, and the heroes went to the Careless Wanderer. They stayed in their luxurious room, deciding to stay away from the crowd downstairs and not draw any attention to themselves and allowing Jeanne some much needed rest. She had remained quiet and shell shocked, and had fallen asleep on the bed.

While Jeanne slept, James recalled what had happened in the basement underneath the butcher shop that afternoon. He also revealed that he had been holding on to one of Atilesceon’s journal pages which mentioned the Upright Man;

None of our agents has been able to get close to the Upright Man for a very long time. The last time anyone of ours got close they disappeared… but not before confirming that they didn’t have one, but two of the tablets in their collection of antiques. It has proven nigh impossible to get anyone close to the situation since. If I can get close to one of their underlings, however…

Luca started theorising that likely Melchior, the man he thought was Kalina’s father, had likely retrieved tablets from Kalauranthalasis’ hoard, since Atilesceon wrote the following about the dragon in his journal;

That poisonous wyrm has been taken prisoner by those fanatics, and word has reached us to confirm that it was in possession of two of the Tablets of the Elemental Eye. If it wasn’t for my experiments here, I would seek them out to swell the collection of the Dark One. Perhaps there are those willing to compensate me for this information?

Not for the first time the heroes felt out of their depth; not knowing what it all meant, what to do with with what they thought they knew, or how to move forward. As they had done before several times, they decided to put it to rest, feeling small and powerless in the face of it. Astrid turned the topic to more practical matters; what was James intending to do about his mother, to which James responded that it was up to Jeanne to decide what it was that she wanted, but that he could ask House Sheridan to give her a place among the staff at their estate.

With that, they had a plan for the following day and their attentions turned to what to do afterwards. Quentin reminded everyone that he had given his word to the Lady Commander of the Crownsguard, Dame Miranda Ravensbourne, that he would find his way to her ancestral lands to see about helping her family deal with the orc invasion.

Online Antisemitism in Gaming

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

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

A Couple of Days in Amsterdam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a weekend.