Category: RPG

Struggle, Survival and Succession

Previously, the heroes had infiltrated the night master’s hideout and followed him, through a portal, into the Newport vault. There they found Xarrombus, the mysterious creature known in Kingsport as the Upright Man, the leader of the Steady Hand.

Sixth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is in low sanction)

The heroes had decided that Xarrombus was a malicious force which formed an existential threat to the safety of the people of Kingsport. Just as they were about to confront Xarrombus, James decided that he wanted to parlay with the alien creature. Uncharacteristically, Quentin vehemently opposed James, claiming that it was too dangerous to allow to remain. And uncharacteristically, James did not press the matter.

And so, the heroes, supported by Jan the custodian, and Brandomiir, marched into the room. Only a few of them had already been able to lay eyes on the grotesque form of Xarrombus, but what they found when carrying some light into the room still shocked them.

To their surprise, the aberrant lords around the room did not pay them any attention and went on with their research, feverishly perusing the books on the shelves. Several people carrying a crown of flesh, including the night master, stood blank faced in the room. Some of them looked as if they had been there for a long time, their bodies emaciated and frail. Some of them were partially embedded in the calcified growth of Xarrombus’ tentacles.

A humongous eyeball was sitting on a bed of hard digits which disappeared in a dark mist which obscured the ground. The vertically slitted pupil, like that of an a lizard, was darting nervously around the room. Half a dozen smaller eyes, about the size of a human head, were floating menacingly in the orbit of the large eye. They had smaller tentacles spilled down at the bottom of the eyeball and they all seemed to be protected by a faintly blue glowing shield of energy.

Once it became clear that the confrontation would not be avoided, Xarrombus erupted a ruinous beam of energy from its great, central eye which struck the heroes, chaining like lightning, jumping from one to the other. The smaller eyes in the monstrous sphere’s orbit sent out their own beams of psychic energy, each having different effects. Each time a floating eye would project their beams their shield would temporarily drop, allowing them to be vulnerable to the attacks of the heroes. Swatting away the smaller eyes was always temporary, since new eyes constantly sprang up from the honeycomb holes in Xarrombus’ tentacles.

Despite the onslaught of damage and confusion Xarrombus caused, its central eye was susceptible to attack. James’ volley of arrows, Emrys’ barrage of telekinetic sorcery, Luca’s rapid eldritch blasts, and Quentin and Astrid’s blades, deft and savage, respectively, soon wounded the eye significantly that Xarrombus changed its attack. The large eye retreated into the bulk of Xarrombus’ body, and the hard digits closed over it, protectively. The ground shook as Xarrombus’ tentacles shifted and it raised its body up over the black mist, revealing a body covered with chitinous plates. Eyes still revealed themselves along the body, but the heroes found it nearly impossible to truly hurt Xarrombus.

Large tentacles burst forth from the ground which had large maws at the end of them. They would batter and bludgeon the heroes and occasionally swallow them whole. Those that were quickly found themselves slowly suffocating and eaten alive, literally, as they moved through Xarrombus’ digestive tract. They found, however, that they had just enough room to manoeuvre and attack from the inside, and Xarrombus seemed very displeased by that, belching and puking up the heroes as soon as possible.

Finally the heroes spotted the light at the end of the tunnel, since the heroes were battered, wounded and frustrated. Luca had lost consciousness. Jan had fought valiantly, until a blast from one of the floating eyes had disintegrated his arm. Brandomiir had spent the early part of the fight in a blind panic, brought on by the mind-altering beams from one of the eyes. For a long while it had not been looking good.

After several heroes had stopped resisting the mawed tentacles and had gone through Xarrombus’ gut, being puked up each time it became too much, Astrid drank a potion that gave her supernatural speed and practically dove into one of the maws. The cumulative damage done to Xarrombus’ insides proved too much, and Astrid carved her way out of the side of the great aberration.

With a last message, Xarrombus claimed that it missed the darkness of the void, and a final psychic ripple went out from it, as it died. That ripple touched the aberrant lords around it, who seized up and dropped out of the air. The people wearing the crowns of flesh dropped to the ground without as much as a sound; including Hamish. And the night master. When the ripple had faded away, the oppressive, psychic intrusion that Xarrombus had been applying on the heroes also faded, leaving them feeling relieved.

When the dust had settled, first aid had been given to those in need, and the reality of the situation set in, a group of people appeared at the entrance to the vault, headed by the day master. Mortified, the day master and his bodyguards walked past Luca, who was grieving over Hamish, and into the room where the body of Xarrombus lay. He was silent as he lay witness to the aftermath. The day master recovered from the shock quickly, and went to search for the night master.

When he found the night master’s body, the burly man knelt down and started rifling through the night master’s clothing. James came to stand beside him with his arms crossed over his chest, and when the day master was done he recovered a simple medallion on a golden chain. It looked faintly like those worn by the magistrates James had seen on his travels.

The day master regarded the medallion and looked remorseful, saying that the night master and he were friends once. He then placed a big hand that held the medallion against James chest. “Take it,” he said, “there is a lot of work to be done.” When James did not immediately take the medallion, the day master dropped it in his folded arms and explained that the only reason the guild had survived all the challenges it had faced was because the upright man was pulling the strings. Without Xarrombus the guild would be weak.

Without another word the day master and his body guards marched out of the library leaving the heroes to deal with the aftermath.

Conjunction of Planes: A Short Introduction


It was August of 2018 when the Conjunction of Planes campaign kicked off, and to date we have played over 100 sessions. During that time, we lost a player, gained a player, went from playing face-to-face to playing online due to a pandemic and because two of our players moved countries.

The campaign is one of heroic fantasy and is set in a homebrewed world, but takes a lot of inspiration from other popular games and media. This hopefully provides a lot of recognisable elements and tropes. There is yet to be developed, which leaves room for collaborative, emergent storytelling and worldbuilding. The goal is to provide a living world sandbox in which the players can engage with any number of storylines, and ignore the ones they are not interested in. The world evolves as the players complete quests, as the players ignore quests, and as the players make decisions during quests.

Character backgrounds are woven into the story, and there is an overarching narrative, which by this point is relatively well established, which the characters get to influence and engage with.

Conjunction of Planes


The story takes place on the continent of the Verdant Kingdoms, primarily in the queendom of Lyria.

After aeons of a low tide of magic, known as the Great Waning, the tide of magic is turning and its potency is swelling. With the increasing flow of magic, the fabric between the material planes of the Ethereal Mist, and the other planes – the outer planes that drift in the Astral Sea and the inner planes that exist in the Elemental Chaos – becomes thin.

The armies that wage the eternal Blood War, those of Order and Chaos, spill over into the material planes. The demonic armies of Chaos seek to devour and destroy anything they can find, while the celestial and infernal armies of Order seek to stop them. The celestials demand obedience, while the infernals seek to recruit through corruption. And the people of the Verdant Kingdoms are caught between these three forces.

When the Blood War comes to the Verdant Kingdoms, it is known as an Age of Fear. The last one was aeons ago, and the next one seems to be coming faster than expected. Whether the continent, and the queendom of Lyria, is ready to fend for itself remains to be seen.

The heroes have discovered that the tide of magic has turned and that the first incursions from beyond are being prepared. They are piecing together information on what can be expected, and how the Verdant Kingdoms survived the previous Age of Fear. The Silver Crusade, a collaboration of knightly orders, guided by the mysterious Senhadrim, was instrumental to the survival of man and the elder races. They left behind knowledge locked away in hidden libraries, and powerful artefacts in secret armouries, and the heroes are trying to secure them before the agents of the opposition do.

The Verdant Kingdoms, in the meantime, seem concerned with politics and commerce, and the heroes are desperate to find a way to galvanise them into preparing for the next Age of Fear. Or better yet, find a way to prevent an Age of Fear by collecting a set of artefacts which will help to restore the Seal of Divine Animus, which protects the planes in the Ethereal Mist from the onslaught of the Astral Sea and Elemental Chaos.

More information can be found here:


Central to the campaign has been a company of characters who have gone from naïve beginners to experienced adventurers. They started out being hired be a local nobleman to investigate a blocked, underground water supply, but have since gone on many adventures. They found a missing wizard, liberated ancient crusaders who were cursed to relive the same defeat over and over again, helped cure the queen of a mysterious ailment by travelling deep into the swamps of Eastmarsh, bargaining with three ancient crones and confronting a dragon. At the time of writing, they are set to confront a mysterious creature, living deep within the ancient waterways of Kingsport, who has been deviously manipulating people and events for a very long time.

In that time the heroes have become known as the Heroes of the White Eye, and the Champions of the Lyrian Throne. These are your adventurers:


A fierce warrior from Hellmark whose goals seem fairly straight forward; she wants to buy a ship. It’s not entirely clear what she will use that ship for, since she doesn’t really talk about her thoughts, feelings or ambitions, and for now her companions have decided to give her the space.


A thoughtful and observant priestess of Sedna, the Lady of Lakes, who grew up in isolation, making her a little world weary, but also taught her how to observe people. Over time, faced with the revelations of the Conjunction, she felt she should return to leading her flock. She has remained a valuable ally to the adventurers.


A young, half-elf sorcerer hailing from a small tribe of aen adhar, or moon elves, in the Riverlands, Emrys grew up in a magi-religious cult. That, coupled with his unpredictable and often tempestuous magic, lead to some incidents that made him escape out into the wide world. He has adopted a frivolous and good natured attitude, and he likes to play music to entertain people.


A young, half-elf who grew up on the streets of Kingsport learning the tricks of the trade from ruffians, pickpockets and con-artists, James had a difficult childhood being raised among whores and ruffians as the bastard son to an immigrant who sold her body for silver stags. Possessing a quick wit and even quicker hands, he brings a sense of practicality and a strong desire to protect the people he cares for.


Coming from a humble beginning as the son of pig farmers, Luca’s been gifted with an incredibly strong intellect which started him off craving knowledge from a really early age. Touched by a mysterious patron who guided the young warlock on his quest for knowledge and understanding, Luca is now coming to terms with the existential horror that the Conjunction will unleash upon the Verdant Kingdoms.


The only member of the group who was born into a noble family, Quentin tends to have a different outlook on things than the others. He can be naïve to the hardships of life, but also have a better understanding of the politics of nobility. He grew up in Beauclair, a neighbouring kingdom to Lyria, and strongly believes in the chivalric virtues. He is trying to find out where he fits in the world.

More information can be found here:


The theme of the campaign is that unity and collaboration, altruism and generosity, friendship and love, win out against the overwhelming existential horror that lays behind the Ethereal Mist. Acts of self-interest – anyone prioritising their benefit over the benefit of another, be that a person, organisation or kingdom – lead to discord, which in turn leads to discontent, which in turn leads to fractured loyalties and corruption. United we stand, divided we fall.


This campaign has been heavily inspired by many things;

  • Nobility and politics: Game of Thrones
  • Cosmology: 3rd and 4th editions of D&D
  • Knightly orders: Dragonlance
  • The three moons and their mechanics: Dragonlance
  • Modernity of cities vs superstition of the countryside: The Witcher
  • The Conjunction of Planes: The Witcher
  • The Blood War: Diablo, D&D, In Nomine, Warhammer

(There are more things that I have taken inspiration from, but these are elements that have not been unveiled yet.)

Etiquette and Expectations

I have drafted a Role-playing Manifesto when we first started this campaign. I think it is still a reasonably accurate document that represents the agreement we made when we started. Having said that, it was something we agreed to while we had already been playing with one another for a long time, and so we had a good understanding on what to expect.

We tend to take our games seriously and we don’t shy away from difficult topics. There is space for levity and comedy, and we try not to over-indulge too much in some of the darker narrative elements that might come up. If there is anything that is off-limits for a player, we expect them to indicate that themselves, and do it in a timely fashion so that we don’t stumble upon something unpleasant. The goal is to enjoy ourselves and engage in collaborative storytelling that is rewarding for everyone.

It is also expected that you develop your character to be a believable character, bound and driven by a consistent internal logic. That character is expected to want things that go beyond kicking down doors, defeating the monster and getting the treasure. And as time goes by, your character is also expected to evolve, learn and understand themselves, their place in the world, and their relationships to the other players, better.

None of these things have to be immediately clear from day one, but leaving it to develop for too long and a character tends to be unmoored, aloof and has a hard time engaging with the world and with others.

The Newport Vault

Previously, the heroes infiltrated the night master’s headquarters, defeated the opposing rogues and aberrant lords, sent the night master to retreat through a portal, and liberated the still unresponsive Hamish. They also managed to free Brandomiir and a custodian named Jan from captivity. Their exit from the headquarters through the ancient waterways was going to be made difficult by an incoming swarm of skaven, so they decided to follow the night master through the portal, only to find themselves in the Newport Vault, where Xarrombus made its home.

Sixth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is in low sanction)

It must have been in the depth of night. Nobody really knew what time it was; all except for Luca, who had the uncanny ability to keep track of time, even when in a dark, cavernous room like the Hall of the Senhadrim of the Newport vault. Everyone was tired, but unsure on whether to take rest or press on.

Quentin took the others aside and away from Hamish, Brando and Jan. He wanted to have a word in private and counted on Astrid to keep the others busy. She did so with a game of Demon Dice. Quentin asked Luca whether it would be possible to use Blackstar to consume the parasite he believed had infested Hamish without harming the young mage. Luca got emotional as he believed Blackstar to be too blunt of an instrument and he cared too much about Hamish to jeopardise him like that.

In the end the decision was made to rest. Luca had made the effort to carry a small tent around the ancient waterways, but he got the last laugh as he pitched a tent, in the Hall of the Senhadrim, for his friend Hamish to rest in. Quentin and Emrys both had a more modest bedroll, and Jan relied on his stoic discipline to get him through the night seated against the round wall. Astrid also didn’t complain. James and Brando stood watch, making sure the group would not be overwhelmed by the slugs crawling up from the deep.

Without the ability to accurately gauge the passage of time, the group rested until they felt ready to move on. Options to heal and bandage up were limited due to not having a healing kit with them, but it allowed they were able to prepare spells and sort their gear. The group shared a simple breakfast as they went over the plan on descending deeper into the vault.

When Emrys cast his spell and bestowed Astrid with the ability of flight, she soared along the tall ceiling of the domed hall. She had only just complained that she “could not hear the Eagle down here” and only minutes later did she hover above the shaft leading down, her gold eyes gleaming as her face briefly took on the features of a large bird of prey.

Astrid carried people down to the different faces that were set into each of the cardinal directions of the shaft’s wall. Each face was slightly different; one handsome, one regal, one with a beard, one bald. There was just enough space on top of the faces for three people to stand comfortably, and so the trip was done in stages. All the while, Jan was marvelling at the enormous sculptures in awe, recognising them for celestial figures in service to the Platinum Father.

As the group descended further down, the pressure on their ears began growing, as if plunging deep under water. It was at that moment that each of the heroes were reminded of a vivid memory of their past.

James remembered being sent out as a rogue apprentice to rob the valuables from a well-guarded mansion. The guild had found out that there was a gap in the mansion’s defences; there was a way into the mansion’s basement, accessible through a flooded corridor in the ancient waterways. He went out with two other apprentices and dove into a nearby public well. The swim was long and deep. One of the two apprentices had to turn back in order not to drown. The other who made it into the basement of the mansion with James unfortunately didn’t make it out with the valuables, instead dying at the blade of one of the house guards.

The memory that came to Luca was that of his time growing up in Hamlet, a small village in the Elder Foothills. A game the children often played in the summer was to see who could swim from one end of the spring to the other. Wyla and Jonah made it, but he was a few years younger than them, and the turbulent water slammed him against the rocks. He was pulled under and blacked out. He woke up with his father standing over him, screaming in his face.

When Quentin was six or seven years old his family made a trip to Sanségal, the capital of his homeland. Before departure, the master of arms of his house had gifted him his first blade; a long poignard. He cherished it, taking it everywhere he went. Including going for a swim on the shores of Lac Sanssouci. There the blade slipped from his belt and it sank to the bottom. He immediately decided to dive after it, but the lake was so deep that his ears were near bursting and he had not reached the bottom yet. He was not able to recover the dagger.

The mounting pressure reminded Emrys of something different than the others; for him it was the first time his erratic magical abilities started to manifest. They came without warning while he was out in the woods, playing with the other Aen Adhar children. He was suddenly seized by headaches and it felt like his head was stuck in a vice. Harmless illusions materialised all around him, and once the episode passed, he felt exhausted.

Astrid’s memory was that of being throw off a ship into the Bay of Teeth, bound by chains, by the people who would usurp her father.

For a brief moment, during the descent, the heroes shared these memories with one another. It was not immediately clear to them why they had suddenly established this psychic connection, nor did they speak about it, but they were left wondering whether their proximity to Xarrombus had something to do with it.

When the group finally reached the bottom, they found themselves on the intersection of four corridors, each leading off to one of the four cardinal directions. The corridors were built in the same style as the rest of the vault, but in many places the walls, floors and ceilings were covered in a biomechanoid material growing in and out of the stone, like roots punching through the floor. These vines had tentacled their way almost everywhere, some of it fresh and soft to the touch, while others were old, thick, and calcified to almost resemble stone. Parts of the fresh vines were covered in holes, all in a neat pattern, like honeycomb. Inside were slimy things gestating and it became clear what the source of the slugs were.

Only one of the four corridors showed some light, which was a relief to all those in the group who were not gifted darkvision at birth. Heading there, they noticed that the corridor was lined with statues of celestial warriors. At the end of the corridor the door opened up into a large, circular room, lined with rows and rows of paintings, each of them in glass cases, framed with wood. The cases were illuminated by tiny, bronze lanterns which emitted no smoke, and were decorated by strings of emeralds, cut in the shape of leaves.

The paintings were all in the theme of divinity, showing angels, saints and prophets. Each of them had been so meticulously displayed as if they were about to go under the hammer at the Landsdowne auction house in Bournemouth.

But the paintings were not the main source of light in the room; that came primarily from the outstretched hands of two, twenty-foot tall, golden statues. Each consisted of the shape of three women, standing back to back in a triangle, there arms thrusted outward and up, their palms to the ceiling. One of the women was an ancient crone, the next a woman in the full bloom of her strength and maturity, and the third was that of a woman who had just matured out of childhood. The flames of one statue were a golden green, while the others were an icy blue.

Luca briefly wondered whether the art had been made by Réonan, and compared it to some of the art he had seen on display at the Circle of Magi. Unfortunately he did not recognise the style to be similar.

After some time had passed, in which the voice of Xarrombus was constantly droning away, undermining the resolve of the heroes and their companions, the group decided to investigate the other corridors. The northern corridor was similar to the one leading to the gallery, but ended up being blocked by a mass of vines thick enough to not just bar the way, but also prevent anyone from peering beyond. Even the little dragonling had no hope of squeezing through. The same turned out to be true for the western corridor.

When the heroes approached the eastern corridor, Emrys, with his keen elven senses, aided greatly by Toruviel, spotted earlier than others what was in the circular room beyond. He saw a great eye, sitting atop a crawling mess of tentacles, surrounded by a black mist reaching to about mid-thigh. Smaller eyes were floating in orbit around the great eye, and it appeared as if several aberrant lords were tending to long shelves, filled with books, librams, manuscripts, scrolls and folios, which were carved into the circular walls.

There were others in the room, including the night master. Most of them were human, some of them seemed frail and emaciated, embedded in the vines that came from the walls and floor. Sometimes, the aberrant lords hovered over to one of them, showing them a manuscript as if consulting with them.

Instinctively, Quentin covered the hood of his lantern, to which James scoffed at the thought that the heroes could keep anything from Xarrombus. This seem to remind the rogue to bind and gag Hamish, which he dutifully did again without protest from the others, even Luca.

The heroes decided to return to the gallery and consider what they’d seen, weigh their options, and come up with a plan. After some deliberation, Emrys suggested he commune with Toruviel. While the blade was more communicative than it has been in the past, it did not immediately present Emrys with something useful. It did not know much about the Newport vault, since they had already transferred themselves into the blade by that point.

Toruviel could identify the two sets of statues as being representations of the winter and summer court that ruled over the Feywild, and it speculated that Xarrombus might have a fascination with the fey and the shadow realms because these are the only alternate realities that are easily accessible from within the Ethereal Mist.

The blade also warned Emrys that when confronting Xarrombus, the heroes might just be facing the aberration and its minions, but potentially the very vault itself. The aberrant overlord could will things into existence, so it was not unthinkable that the very nature of reality could be bent to its will. A sign of this were the occasional eyes that opened up on the vines, as well as a statue of a celestial warrior subtly shift it’s weight from one leg to another.

Emrys asked questions about the vaults, their purpose, and Toruviel shared what the heroes had already learned in the last couple of months; they were meant as a stronghold against invasions from beyond. While the elder races had their own way of surviving the Conjunction of Planes, humans were left to fend for themselves. They constructed fortresses and hid behind walls. It was only when the properties of lyrium were discovered that the playing field was levelled. This reminded the heroes that the precious crystals could aid them in the confrontation to come.

When Emrys shared what he had learned, Quentin turned to regard the two sets of golden statues. He had looked at them, but had not truly regarded them before. He sensed that these statues were not quite good, not quite evil. Neither, and both, all at once. He had a sense that if it came to a route, rallying around the statues, in particular the ones of the summer court, might prove beneficial.

The heroes decided to confront Xarrombus and redistributed some weapons to their companions who did not have any. Quentin shared that he had seen some interesting tactics employed by outlaws in Beauclair that involved lighting a cloth wrapped around the neck of a bottle of strong spirits on fire. James was not willing to part with the collection he kept in his bag, but Brandomiir was given a crossbow with several bolts instead.

And so the heroes returned to the library, where Xarrombus still waited.

Out of the Frying Pan

Previously, our heroes managed to infiltrate the headquarters of the night master in an attempt to find and liberate Luca’s good friend Hamish. During the rescue attempt several aberrant lords tried to interfere, but the heroes defeated them, as well as several guild members. Unfortunately, Hamish seemed to have been robbed of his faculties, and to top it off, the heroes found their exit quickly being cut off by what sounded like a horde of skaven.

Fifth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

The heroes had defeated several aberrant lords as well as a handful guild members who decided to oppose them. The rest of the guild members had either departed into the ancient waterways, or had hid behind sturdy doors and showed no interest in showing themselves. Besides liberating Hamish, the heroes also managed to save Brandomiir from guild interrogators, as well as a custodian named Jan who had been taken hostage and subsequently had a slug implanted in his eye by one of the aberrant lords.

Quentin asked James whether he knew an alternate route out of the night master’s headquarters, hoping that the young rogue could combine his experience in the ancient waterways with what he learned during their time in the carceratum. Unfortunately, James thought that the only two options the heroes had were departing through the ancient waterways and risk getting cut off by the skaven, or departing through the portal they had seen in the night master’s room.

While the rest of the heroes discussed the two options, Luca tended to Brandomiir’s wounds by calling upon the power of his patron. Since the last time that Luca and Bran had spoken to one another, the young warlock’s relationship with his patron had changed considerably when he found out that his mysterious patron was Aurion; a celestial with a complicated history of service to Paladine. This all explained the surprised look on Bran’s face when a healing warmth coursed through Luca hands and began to rapidly mend broken bones and knit together cuts and tears.

The heroes made it to the night master’s room just in time to see him plunge into the dark portal behind his desk carrying an armful of rapidly gathered items. He had plundered the drawers of his desk in haste, as if he had been looking for something specific. It was quickly decided that Emrys would go through the portal last; the heroes were keenly aware of the strange, disruptive effect the sorcerer had portals. The custodian became very uneasy as he watched the heroes go through one by one. James convinced him that he would not want to risk his life at the hands of the skaven and he reluctantly went through the portal.

When the darkness receded, the heroes found themselves, together with Hamish, Brandomiir, Jan and the dragonling, in a very large, cavernous space. The room was circular, with a ceiling so high overhead that it could not be seen by torch or lantern, even by those in the group whose vision was aided by their heritageor the enhancements of the Arms of the Senhadrim. The floor was tiled and the curved wall was decorated with very detailed relief sculptures of armies of winged warriors fighting a crawling chaos. In eight alcoves, evenly spaced along the wall, stood metal pillars which each held a softly glowing crystal.

In the middle of the chamber there was a circular shaft leading straight down, large enough for two dozen people standing shoulder to shoulder. Shining a torch into its depths revealed that the walls were tiled and decorated with more relief sculptures. James used small metal ball bearings to gauge the depth of the shaft, but it was so deep that he couldn’t make an accurate estimate. He did find, however, that there were sculptures of large faces of winged warriors set into the walls. The first of these was about fifty feet down from the top of the hole, and they were large enough that James was confident that he could climb down and stand on the top of the head. When he did so, he also found that the deeper he went into the shaft, the more the walls of the shaft became covered with fleshy slugs, each slowly crawling towards the top.

While the heroes were discussing how to proceed, Xarrombus took control of Hamish and told the heroes that it would let them leave, but that it would never relinquish Hamish back to them. Immediately, the heroes started to hear the same impassive voice itching in the back of their minds, filling their thoughts with intrusive thoughts which undermined their confidence. Most of the heroes were able to shake off the negative effects of what the voice was telling them, but Emrys fell victim to it and felt overwhelmed by melancholy.

James used the rope with which he had been exploring the hole in the ground to immediately bind Hamish’s hands and feet together and put a blind on him. At the same time, Luca attempted to restore Emrys’ confidence by channelling the power of his patron, but unfortunately it had no positive effect.

Luca suggested reaching out to Réonan using the ring that the heroes were given. He wanted to ask whether they would know of a way out of the vault, but James argued that if they were going to attempt to save Kingsport, they would have to go down the shaft and confront Xarrombus.

All of them were fatigued and despite being underground they all realised that the hour was growing late. Quentin took Róisín out of its flowering scabbard, sat down and started sharpening the blade with a whetstone. The sword, meanwhile, hummed the melancholic tune that Quentin had heard Ser Estienne d’Epines play.

After some rest, Emrys seemed to recover from his deep melancholy. The dark voices were still whispering troubling things to the heroes, but each of them had found a way to keep the despondency at bay.

Sixth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is in low sanction)

The heroes decided to contact Réonan and ask for assistance. The ring allowed for a limited message to be passed between it and the grand archmage of the Circle of Mages. This lead to several messages going back and forth in which Réonan suggested that the teleportation circle could be used after the vault guardian was defeated. Confused, the heroes soon learned that the series of pillars and crystals were part of the teleportation circle, and could be used to travel to another vault.

Réonan also said they would organise a rescue, but needed to know where the heroes were and how they got there. The heroes responded by saying that they went in through the night master’s portal which collapsed behind them and that they would continue forward and confront the vault guardian.

Fiction: A Plague Upon Kingsport

Fifth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

My name is Kasia. I was born in the year of the winter mare in the voivodeship of Żubrówka, on the western plains of Silesia. When life was good, father drove cattle and mother taught letters and numbers. They always spoke about leaving the plains and moving to the lands of evergreen. Father would rear horses or mind cattle for a lord, while mother would be a handmaid to a lady, and we would never have to follow the herd again.

Misfortune struck when the blood rain began to fall; my mother and sister were taken by a plague, as were many others. We were all afraid and everyone prayed. The elders said an old evil had awoken. When the ground was soaked scarlet the dead began to rise from their barrows at night, so father made sure to bury mamuśka and Lena extra deep and to put heavy stones upon their graves.

The situation grew worse. Father said he could not face another day on the plains while they were shrouded in darkness. The snow was upon us but we packed up and left. It was not the way I had imagined coming to Lyria. We were tired and hungry, and we had to sell the few things we managed to strap to Bucefałus’ harness.

We made it across the Lyrian range only to find that the lords of Farcorner were rebelling against the throne, and as a result, were weary of strangers. We travelled further west, passing grim-faced soldiers dressed in crimson cloaks, travelling east along the Silesian road, ready to confront the Farcorner rebels. Father held me close, making sure none of the men stepped out of line.

After days of travelling west, past small towns and hamlets, we reached an enormous tree. The largest tree I had ever seen. There were woods in Silesia, but there was mostly grasslands. In the summer, the Earthmother blessed the plains with wild flowers of all the colours of the rainbow. But nothing had been as impressive as that tree standing but a short distance from the road.

The tree’s warden, a burly man with a large beard and a pleasant accent, offered us a place to rest under the bough of the tree. Other travellers had gathered around the fire. There were Lyrians who were travelling home before the winter, knights in armour decorated with red, merchants ending the trading season, and the Szygani who followed their strange gods. There were even other Silesians who were fleeing the blood rain. It was the first time we felt welcomed.

Father had struck up a conversation with one of the guards belonging to the retinue of lord Jerod Brightmantle, a nobleman who was returning to his estate from preparing his lands for the winter and picking up his daughter from boarding school. The guard introduced father to lord Jerod, and lord Jerod introduced me to lady Grace, his daughter.

Father was offered to drive the lord’s cattle over the winter in return for an honest pay. It helped that father had his own horse and that he was as a more talented rider than anyone else in lord Jerod’s employ. I would wait on lady Grace and help work the stables.

Father departed the estate several days after our arrival, taking Bucefałus and riding north with the other drivers. He had calmed considerably once he found he got along with the others and he started smiling more. He made sure that I would be okay in his absence and I assured him I would be. I tended to lady Grace, which was made easy because she seemed fond of me. I waited on her in the morning and evening, and I worked the stables in the afternoon, while she was studying.

Life was good. Too good. I could almost forget what we had left behind in Silesia. Almost.

It was the second ride of my stay at Dawnlight Hall and lord Jerod was set to travel south, to Kingsport. He was to prepare the Brightmantle manse in the city for their stay during the winter, and he bade lady Grace to join him. Where she went, I was told to go. I was very excited.

It was a day’s travel to the river. There we boarded a boat which took us downstream. It was very exciting, but that excitement paled in comparison to the excitement I felt when the city came into view. Lady Grace pointed out the castle, the spires of the house of Paladine, and the dark peak of the house of the Raven Queen. She could also name all of the gates and bastions which made up the ramparts around the city. I was so mesmerised I did not even notice the gentle flurries of the first snow until one landed directly on my nose.

The boat took us right into the city through the river gate. I have never felt so small in my life. Lady Grace was much more accustomed to it, since her eyes were not on the city, but rather on the sky. She lamented that there were no griffon patrols. I remember my heart skipped a beat; griffons were a danger to the herd and no Silesion would dare or even consider riding the vicious beasts. Yet in Kingsport, the city guard patrolled them across the skies.

We disembarked and were met by Brightmantle guards. Lord Jerod and lady Grace boarded a carriage and I got to sit with the driver. One of the Brightmantle men wanted to inform the lord of important matters about the manse, its stores, and a foreign delegation coming to the city from the west, but lord Jerod first wanted to visit the cathedral to pay his respects to the Platinum Father.

The building was overwhelming in its splendour, and the square it sat on was larger than the village father and I had left behind not so long before. The Brightmantles went up to the great doors and were met by priests and clergymen. It was cold and I wanted to keep warm, so once the Brightmantles disappeared inside the cathedral I left the carriage to wander around. I was told to stay close, so I decided to walk around the square, which the driver told me was called “Steward’s Square”, or “Independence Square”, since the last steward of Kingsport died only two rides before. That fact seemed to hold great significance to the driver, though I didn’t quite understand why.

I walked around the square, always within eyesight of the carriage and house guards. I saw the temple of light, where brothers and sisters of Pholtus patiently tended to the sick and injured. I saw the fertile gardens of the Earthmother, and the placid silent sisters of the Raven Queen.

I stood in front of a small tower on the edge of the square which I later learned was called the carceratum. It had a ramp leading down into a dungeon below. Guards with scarlet cloaks and monks with red robes stood around and looked at me with weariness. It was unnerving, and it reminded me of the soldiers I saw marching east before we came to Northshire. Just as their looks turned to one of horror, I noticed a strange smell of thunder in the air.

The details of what happened next slowly returned to me over the next few years. Even now there are things that my mind refuses to recall. The chaplains of the order tell me that it is my mind protecting me from the hardships of that day. They say it is a testament to my resilience and willpower that I survived it without my mind in shatters in the first place.

There was a sound of rushing air which filled my ears as I turned around to face what had shocked the guards and monks so. Initially I had a difficult time understanding what it was that I was looking at. For years afterwards I continued to search for the words to describe it. Only when I had been witness to a full eclipse of the sun when I was in my sixth year at the order did I discover how to put it into words; a large oval disc, with a golden corona bordering it, just like an eclipse. It was as if someone had erected an enormous mirror in the middle of the square which reflected an absolute darkness, and whose frame was made of a warm, radiant light which was drawn into that darkness, unable to escape its pull.

I looked back to see the monks feverishly putting their hands together to form the sign of the holy triangle of Paladine. The guards raised their arms and shields in trepidation. I did not understand their fear and circled the black disc and tried to peer into its depths. For long seconds nothing happened until I saw something appear, as if emerging from beneath the surface of a dark ink. With every moment more revealed itself until I could make out two lanterns, suspended from chains, swinging from side to side, emitting a curious, yellow vapour.

I remember that my instincts warned me that I was in danger. I have since learned that had I not heeded the urge to hide, I would have suffered a horrible fate.

As I continued to back away, I saw the two figures who were swinging those noxious censers emerge from that dark surface; two hooded ratmen, which I know now to be the insidious skaven. Quickly, more skaven followed, wearing crude armour and wicked weapons; more than a dozen. Their cacophony of snarls and screeches joined the constant sound of rushing air coming from the rift.

The two hooded skaven stood to either side of the rift, while the others spread out defensively, making space for something else to emerge. It took a long moment before it did, the air tense with malicious potential in the meanwhile. The tension finally broke upon the rumbling sound of a deep grunt, resembling the mating call of a Silesian bison bull.

First I saw the beast.

It was enormous and dense, built somewhat like a bison, but ten times the weight. It’s body was covered in a thick, brown leather and a mane of shaggy, reddish fur. A set of chitinous plates ran along its spine from its forehead to its thick tail. It stood on short, powerful legs ending in hard, cleft hooves. Its torso was so muscled that its belly almost dragged along the ground, making its skin calloused from chest to tail. Crude, metal barding was added to its head, shoulder and hips, and it wore a harness which held a saddle on its arched back.

It had deep, sunken eyes and a broad, plated forehead from which a blunt, curved horn protruded. Long tusks jutted outward from either side of its jaw like the handles of a wheelbarrow, sweeping low along the ground. The tips of its tusks were fitted with sharp metal and a barbed chain ran between them.

It was clear that this beast was bred for war. What was equally clear was that the beast suffered from a terrible malady.

A sickly yellow foam was leaking from its muzzle. The skin around its eyes was thick and enflamed and puss had crusted in the fur around its eyes. Its flesh was riddled with bloated pustules teeming with the undulating eggs of parasites that seemed like they were about to burst open.

Saddled on the beast’s back was a different calibre of nightmare.

Nausea and dizziness overtook me as I beheld the rider; a tall figure dressed in elaborate armour that must have once been splendorous but now was scarred and battered. The armour was missing the chest piece and exposed skin so drained of colour it had the tone of sour milk. Despite its body being strong and lean, its belly was swollen, like that of a pregnant heifer. There was a jagged gut wound in the swelling and some of the rider’s intestines spilled from the wound like coils of sausage links. Dense clusters of large, puss-filled blisters surrounded the wound.

The rider’s head was bald and its face was the same pallid colour as its torso. Its thin skin was stretched tight along its deep brow and hooked nose. So tight, that it seemed that it didn’t quite fit, and looked like it was a flimsy mask that it was wearing. Around the mouth and eyes it looked as if the skin had started to peel away, exposing a dark, chapped skin underneath. There was not a hair on its deformed head, but instead it had row of small horns pierce through the skin where hair should be. The back of its head was a mess of strange growth the colour of spoilt meat.

Bony branches grew from somewhere behind its head and the pauldrons of its armour. They looked like the antlers of a stag, but more twisted and gnarled. They were adorned with trinkets, talismans and animal bones, which reminded me of the items carried by plainstrider healers back home.

I was awoken from my fright by the stench coming from the invaders and realised that there was shouting and screaming all around me. In my horror I had not noticed that the guards and monks had foolishly engaged the group. They were overwhelmed by the skaven before they could mount an organised defence. I bolted down the ramp of the carceratum and looked on.

The rider observed the dead from atop its mount and wrote something with a filthy, black quill in a large, leather-bound book that it had chained to a girdle. There were several other items attached to its waist, though I can only recall a large hourglass, and something that looked like an abacus.

When it was done writing in its book it stood up in its stirrups and put the quill and book away. It spoke with a booming voice the sound of a rockslide and my mind filled with buzzing, as if my head was invaded by a thousand insects. Both sounds seemed intent on conveying meaning, as if I heard two voices at the same time, though neither made any sense to me.

“Let it be known that plague and pestilence shall take this city,” the two hooded skaven said in a shrill voice, translating for their master, “if the Liber Bubonicus is not returned to me.” Slowly the mount started to move at a slow gait, heading directly towards the carceratum where I was hiding. The hooded skaven preceded it while the others formed a skirmish at the flanks and the rear.

I retreated down the ramp as much as I could and soon found myself with my back against the doors leading into the dungeon, unable to retreat any further. All I could see as I looked up the ramp were the silhouettes of the rider and its mount, flanked on each side by the hooded skaven against the grey sky. The buzzing in my head got louder, and the rider spoke again with a voice like shale rock while raising hand to point a finger at me.

“Tell your queen to root out the one they call the upright man and return to me the Book of Woe,” the hooded skaven said in unison while also pointing at me. Everything they said and did was an echo of what the rider said and did. I remember the rider turning its head to look at something happening in the square and the buzzing subsided a bit. Someone was confronting them again and the group moved away from the carceratum.

I steadied my breath and crept up the ramp only to witness the priests of Paladine, together with Brightmantle guards and several guards in scarlet cloaks which had arrived, confront the skaven and the rider. Lord Jerod was among them, having drawn his sword after ordering his carriage away, carrying lady Grace to safety, though I did not know of her fate at the time.

Again, the buzzing returned as the rider spoke out, its words translated into shrill voices by the hooded skavens. “Your precious good health shall be forfeit until the book is submitted to me, Epidemius the Cataloguer, Lord of Decay,” the skavens shrieked in unison with the rider’s awful voice. “I shall return with each cycle of Nasul and your wounds will continue to fester,” they warned.

The only good thing about the fight was that it was short. I do not remember many details to this day, despite the sessions with the chaplains of the order. What I do remember was that this time the rider got involved. I remember his mount trampling the priests and him twisting lord Jerod into an broken state, both physically as well as mentally. I remember screaming at Epidemius until my voice was raw, begging for him to let lord Jerod die.

Afterwards, when lord Jerod had ceased moving, there was a moment of stillness on the square. The only thing I heard was a snort from the beast. Epidemius wrote something in the book at his belt, snapped the book shut and took the reigns to reel the mount around. The skaven followed, their beady eyes casting furtive glances in all directions.

As the mount continued to walk, Epidemius unfurled a scroll, read aloud from it in his grating voice, and a torrent of ruinous energy projected from him. It ripped into the fabric of our reality and tearing open another black rift, identical to the one through which they arrived. As soon as the last of the skirmishing skaven was through, the rift closed itself and the square fell back into peaceful silence, with snow gently falling from above.

People had dared to come back into the square by the time I stopped shaking. The two large, bloodstained circles in the snow that signalled the two massacres were quickly surrounded by onlookers. Where the first few people that arrived paid attention to me, wondering how a young girl was able to survive what had happened, I was quickly forgotten once the commotion started. More guards with scarlet cloaks arrived who tried to disperse the crowd, with little success.

People were asking what happened, who was responsible, where the attackers had gone. Wild stories began to circulate, each of them carrying a bit of the truth, most had a lot of speculation, and none could captured the horror that I witnessed. It was said that the silent sisters of the Raven Queen had started wailing at the time of the attack and had not ceased since. I also heard that the gardens at the temple of the Earthmother had withered, which I had later verified to be true.

I remember the next couple of days to be very difficult. The curfew was tightened and there were more patrols on the streets, making it difficult to travel through the city. It made it impossible for me to find out where the Brightmantle estate was and it forced me to sleep outside and scavenge for food. All while it snowed.

On the third day after the invasion, while I was scavenging for food in a pig enclosure, I was found by a kindly man in simple, fur-lined robes, carrying a leather case. He introduced himself as father Devon, a priest devoted to Pholtus. He took me to the Temple of Light for some food and water. It appeared that just like the other houses of worship, the followers of Pholtus had also been affected by Epidemius’ appearance for they had been flooded by people seeking healing and care.

With father Devon’s aid, I was reunited with lady Grace a day later. She had been made lady of Dawnlight Hall in the wake of her father’s death and it was clear that she was struggling. I supported her as she mourned the loss of her father and came to terms with the position she had been put in. In turn, she held me whenever I woke up screaming in the night and counselled me on how to reclaim my courage. Which I did.

And still, after all these years, having learned all the things that I’ve learned, I still wonder whether it was not me who brought the plague from the plains of Silesia to the lands of evergreen.