Category: RPG

Certainty is for the Dead

Previously, the heroes had listened to a lecture from Falka on Epidemius, and they were getting ready to oppose the fiend when he would arrive at Kingsport next. They prepared several visits, and Neamhan flew to the Seat of Friendship in order to ask the druids that guarded the place for help.

Second Day, Second Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is in high sanction, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waning)

Olafur the friendly custodian of the Circle of Magi lead Luca and Emrys up the broad winding stairs at the rear of the lavishly carpeted lobby and into the tower where Réonan had their private quarters. They passed many interesting banners, tapestries, and statues, until they arrived at the top of the tower and walked along the jetty. It had large windows, looking out over the city, and were lined with many curiosities. The interior of the tower was like a museum, and at its centre stood the great statue of Prayanti, the Guardian of the Scarab Temple of the Great Sand Sea of Noth. Olafur beseeched the statue entrance and the room turned – or did the tower turn around the room – to reveal the entrance to Réonan’s quarters.

After some conversation with Réonan it became clear that the head archmage of the Circle was sceptical about confronting Epidemius, but was prepared to support the endeavours of the heroes. They had already spoken to the crownsguard about ways in which the citizenry of Kingsport should be protected, and were willing to attend the confrontation together with the heroes. Réonan tried to temper Luca and Emrys’ expectations of what they could do. Furthermore, Réonan was unwilling to commit any other support, like students, alumni, or professors from the Circle. To signify their commitment, Réonan slipped a ring from their finger and gave it to the heroes. Luca and Emrys recognised it as the ring which would allow them to communicate with Réonan at some great distance.

Before their departure, Réonan expressed an interest in the support the heroes were gathering, and told Luca that they noticed that the presence of Aurion was missing from around him, though they did not mention it in such explicit terms. It was something that Luca was working on rectifying.

Back at the Wanderer Quentin finished penning the letter he intended to send to his father. It had taken him some time to find the right words to convey both the urgency of the situation as well as the opportunity which lay before them. Quentin turned to Chakuq, who had returned from scouting out Steward’s Square, and asked the hunter whether he would join him for a trip to Forgewright Arms. Quentin needed a steel ring forged, and Chakuq, he reasoned, could ask after silvered weapons. Astrid, who had been bored, decided to join them for a walk.

When they arrived at the smithy they found Kargath at the forge while two men, clad in leather aprons, worked the bellows as Dagran looked on. Chakuq was captivated by the process of smelting and forging, while Quentin spoke to Dagran and asked him to forge a steel ring. The smith seemed to understand what a letter bound by a steel ring implied in Beauclair and was concerned. He dismissed the two men working the bellows, suggesting they enjoy an early supper.

Inviting the heroes inside to talk, Dagran asked whether Quentin knew what he was doing sending out a steel ring. Quentin replied that he hoped that he did, but that certainty was for the dead. Dagran let it rest when Quentin explained that the heroes were looking for aid in their opposition to Epidemius. He then turned his attention to Chakuq who had still been marvelling at all the metalworks. After a short conversation Chakuq negotiated for a dagger to be forged with silvered metal, and to have silver-tipped arrowheads created. The price was well within Chakuq’s budget, but Quentin tried to pay for it well over the asking price, which Chakuq thought was odd. In the end, Chakuq insisted in paying for his own tools.

“Certainty is for the dead.”
Lord Quentin Morvrayne, Grave Knight to the Raven Queen

On the way back to the Careless Wanderer, Quentin, Chakuq, and Astrid were reunited with Luca and Emrys who were returning from the Circle of Magi. On Steward’s Square the group bumped into Vydia and her servant Darla, who had been standing near the place where Epidemius would reappear in two days time. She wanted to speak to Quentin about a pair of dreams she has had about him, which seemed in her estimation to be oracular ones. Quentin invited her to the Careless Wanderer to get out of the cold and have a place to talk.

Quentin and Vydia took a seat at a far table in order to have some privacy. Vydia explained she had two dreams. The first was of a letter, bound by steel, penned in Quentin’s hand and sent under his seal. She had seen a rider on a golden horse, carrying that letter. She saw armoured riders, carrying spears tipped with silver, following a black raven with white feathers on its wing. In the second dream, she explained, she saw the riders charge down a beast she dare not describe, and hooves thundering down on cobbled stones. She remembered seeing people with dark hoods and darker intentions, with wicked prayers on their lips and in their hearts, holding daggers made from the teeth of a great beast. She saw wagons on fire, blood in the snow, and people fighting. And finally a swan bursting forth from one of the wagons, its wings aflame, carrying a burning flower in its beak.

Quentin grew frustrated as he realised that sending the letter would have dire consequences, and his inability to discern which option would lead to the best outcome. He slammed the letter down on the table in anger, but the anger died down shortly after. Vydia had no answers for him, but hoped that Quentin would be able to interpret the dreams and divine some meaning from them.

Before Vydia departed, she mentioned that she was still working on the petrified rose and the miniature galleon. She was confident that the petrified rose belonged to the Lady Without Ending, but needed more time with it. The galleon had frustrated her; she kept being shown visions of a man chained to the rocks in the middle of a stormy bay, shouting threats at her. This sparked recognition in some, as that was also close to the interaction they had with the spirit inside of Muirgheal, the Senhadrim trident that was in Emma’s possession.

It was around that time that Neamhan returned from the Seat of Friendship. She quickly caught everyone up on her meeting with the druids and the conversation she had with Gheolgothis. She was happy to report that the druids were open to Neamhan using the Seat of Friendship as a place of power to retry performing the ritual to deliver Quentin from the influence of the Sisters of the Grove.

Quentin shared what he had learned from Vydia, and Neamhan insisted that she be the one to deliver the message to the delegation. They were two days away, but she could make it back before the dawn. Quentin was hard to convince, but eventually relented, under the condition that Neamhan wouldn’t travel, or deliver the message, in the guise of a raven.

While the heroes were enjoying dinner, Céleste came into the tavern with two porters. She engaged Durham in conversation and eventually bought and took away a surplus of wine. It was loaded into a cart outside and taken away. Chakuq shared a story about a hunt he was part of and the tactics they used to separate the bulls from the herd. He thought it relevant, because if they could separate Epidemius from his forces, then the heroes could confront Epidemius without putting their support at risk.

When Falka finally returned from the Tomb of St. Catherine, where she had spoken to Jan, Neamhan immediately wanted to know whether she was released from the risk of persecution. She said that it was more complicated than that; she had spoken to Jan, who had been suffering from having his mangled arm amputated, and arranged for a stay of persecution until after the problem of Epidemius had been dealt with.

Jan, Falka continued, had been vaulted into a role of some importance with the custodians, and as such was in a position to help resolve the problem for Neamhan. But he was having doubts about the role, about his worthiness, and was suffering from illness as a result of his injuries and the amputation. Falka also explained that Jan claimed to hear a compelling voice and seeing wisps of black smoke at the edges of his vision, which to her indicated that the man was definitely troubled.

When Neamhan decided to take the letter and fly west, Luca decided to head to the Tomb of St. Catherine in order to speak to Jan himself. He found Jan at the alter of a private chapel, singing a song of lament in praise to St. Catherine. The chapel was warm and filled with the sweet smell of incense. A thousand candles were lit all across the room, and behind a wooden screen Luca saw a woman kneeling, lost in feverish prayer. Luca sat down next to Jan and suggested it would be a good idea for them to talk.

Prayer, Communion and Visitation

Previously, Neamhan found out from Wynn that she had received the Mark of the Heretic from the custodians, and Luca helped Blackstar to feed, at the cost of his good standing with his patron. Chakuq arrived in Kingsport and found a welcome at the Careless Wanderer, just in time to listen to Falka’s lecture to the heroes on the history of Epidemius and his Book of Woe.

Second Day, Second Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is in high sanction, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waning)

The conversation about Epidemius was still continuing at the Careless Wanderer. Chakuq, the newest guest at the inn, was a veteran hunter and had decided to offer the heroes his advice. All the while, Céleste was contemplating her worries at the bottom of a wine glass at a different table.

The heroes decided that direct confrontation of Epidemius was the best route forward, but they would need a lot more allies if they were to succeed. Falka would speak to Jan and the custodians, not just about the accusations against Neamhan, but also about help against the fiend. Astrid would try to find Brandomiir to enlist his services, and Neamhan would fly to the Seat of Friendship to speak to the druids that protected the tree at the Seat. Quentin, in the meantime, would write a letter addressed to his lord father, and visit the Forgewright Arms to see whether Dagran could fashion him a ring of steel to accompany the letter. The significance of this was lost on the rest of the heroes, but after getting quill, ink and paper from Falka, Quentin said down to write his letter.

Chakuq asked whether the heroes had the right tools to their disposal, recalling a hunt on a hag, a supernatural creature, which required silvered weapons to take it down. The heroes assured Chakuq that they were confident that they had the weapons necessary, and could even extend some of the weapons they had gathered over time to him, should he decide to stand with them against Epidemius.

Neamhan suggests that when she has reshaped herself into a fierce beast, she would be confident that her claws, talons and fangs would work against the likes of Epidemius. When Emrys asked her why she would not just sling spells at a distance, she remarked that being in the thick of melee was more “fun.” Astrid’s face darkened in response and Neamhan realised that she had crossed a line with the northerner that she did not quite understand.

Getting increasingly more worried about his inability to access his powers, Luca felt the urge to visit the Cathedral of the Platinum Father. Before leaving, he asked Quentin whether he could check with Dagran Forgewright whether it was possible to socket more lyrium crystals into weapons in preparation for the confrontation with Epidemius.

Luca stood before the cathedral and ascended the steps towards the intricately carved double doors which allowed entrance into the hallowed halls. Inside, he walked down the nave to the transept where he found the cracked altar. The pebble that St. Benedict had used to sunder the altar was still laying there. “…it takes but one to start a landslide with the casting of a single pebble,” Luca remembered. It was the last time that he had seen Aurion.

Turning into the chapel of St. Aureus the Golden One, a figure as legendary to the Silver Crusade as St. Catherine of Dunagore, Luca lit a candle and began to pray. A dimness overtook Luca’s sight, as if he had been lost in heavy concentration, and slowly he felt the presence of Aurion emerge. Eventually, the heavy voice of his patron filled his thoughts. It was not an easy conversation for Luca, but at Aurion was not refusing to answer his call. Aurion reminded Luca that chose to walk the path of order, and that strict control of Blackstar was a consequence of that pact. Luca was remorseful for taking the man’s life and letting Blackstar consume his soul, but showed no remorse for disobeying his patron. Aurion required only one thing; obedience. Luca was going to have to prove himself to his master before his obediences would return to him. Luca was once Aurion’s favourite and most promising servant, but that was slowly changing, Aurion warned.

After Aurion had left him, Luca spent some time in contemplation, and then in conversation with Sartinius, a young cleric devoted to Paladine whom he had seen at the cathedral before. He spoke of devotion, of reverence and of different prayers that Luca could use to strengthen and show his devotion. Sartinius often prayed to St. Catherine because of how relatable she is when compared to St. Aureus the Golden One, and how her sacrifice resonated with a lot of people because devotion often requires sacrifice. Luca decided to reflect on that, and what sacrifices he had made, and would need to make in the future, in order to be obedient to Aurion.

Back at the Careless Wanderer Neamhan was getting ready to travel to the Seat of Friendship to find the druids there. She asked Lauryn to help her by closing the balcony doors behind her as she took on the shape of a falcon. She flew out over the city, leaving a dumbstruck Lauryn behind. As she climbed higher and higher, she saw that two griffons were patrolling the skies above the city.

It took Neamhan about two hours of flying along the coast before the enormous tree of that marked the Seat of Friendship came into view. The oak stood much taller than the surrounding trees, and still retained all of its leaves, spectacularly coloured from light yellow to deep purple. It’s canopy was dense and its trunk was thicker than any tree Neamhan had ever seen.

Underneath the boughs of the great oak, Neamhan found travellers resting on a blanket of think moss that covered the ground, surrounding a fire which was being carefully tended to by a trio of druids. There were travellers of all stripes; commoners, merchants, noblemen with their guards, and there was a group of szygani sitting outside a colourful wagon.

After observing the people in the glade Neamhan identified the leader of the druids, a burly man with a grizzled beard wearing a red and black tartan, a sheep’s fur, and a black hood adorned with bits of deer antler. He was going around the glade, speaking to each of the travellers, making sure that they felt welcomed. Neamhan eventually hid behind the wagon of the szygani and turned back into her elven shape, revealing herself to be a traveller that had just arrived.

When Neamhan revealed herself, the druid introduced himself as Ciarán and offered her a seat at the fire, and a cup of warm brew that the szygani were sharing. She accepted and found that it was an interesting mix of sage, rosemary, cinnamon and cinnas-fruit. Neamhan took a gamble and addressed Ciarán in the shared tongue of druids, which he understood. It was clear that his accent was different than hers, but that there was enough of a common base to have a conversation.

After Ciarán disappointed Neamhan desire for help from the druids in the fight against Epidemius, she tried to convince him that Epidemius posed a threat to the tree, which Ciarán referred to as Gheolgothis. The druid did not seem concerned and claimed that the tree had survived much worse than the likes of Epidemius. Neamhan was intrigued asked whether she could commune with Gheolgothis. Ciarán offered her a seat among the thick roots of the tree.

When Neamhan reached out, she found a voice as old as time, which sounded like the rumble and groaning of the timber framework of a galleon. Eventually she started to make out words and phrases, and she learned that Gheolgothis considered itself eternal, but that it understood that it could burn, that it could end, only for something new to regrow from it when it was gone. It made Neamhan feel comforted. When Neamhan asked whether Gheolgothis felt safe, it did not understand the concept of safety, much like an advancing glacier did not understand mercy for the things it crushed in its path.

 

Before thanking Gheolgothis for its time, Neamhan asked it how far it reached. It seemed to struggle with the question, and then answered that it reached as far as the “Oakfather”, which Neamhan in turn struggled to understand as an answer. The tree seemed to fall back into a slumber after Neamhan’s goodbye.

During the remainder of her conversation with Ciarán, Neamhan discovers that he is very old for a human, rivalling her in age, and he has the ability to turn his skin into bark. He is part of the Circle of the Land, and managed to eventually guess Neamhan’s affiliation as a Circle of the Moon druid. They had a brief conversation about the origins of druidic magic, but Neamhan was disappointed to discover that Ciarán attributed his power to Silvanus, the Oakfather. (This also put Gheolgothis’ answer to her question about how far it reached into perspective.) Ciarán went to invite her and the heroes back to the Seat of Friendship, and that they could use it as a “place of power” any time they needed to strengthen a ritual.

When she finally bid her farewell, Neamhan assumed the shape of a falcon again and started flying back to Kingsport. She would likely arrive in the early evening.

When Falka left to go and talk to the custodians, about the situation with Neamhan and about help with Epidemius, Quentin left for Forgewright Arms and Chakuq joined Luca and Emrys as they were heading towards the Circle of Magi. They stopped at Steward’s Square and walked Chakuq through what they knew about Epidemius’ first appearance.

On the spot where the fight took place Chakuq found some old, faded blood stains, and a little further down he noticed some miniscule crystals, the size of grains of sand. They glittered kaleidoscopically in the dying light of the late afternoon sun. Luca explained what he knew about the crystals, and where they came from. Chakuq continued to walk around the square to familiarise himself with the layout, with the buildings, and with any vantage points, while Luca and Emrys visited the Circle of Magi.

Arriving at the Circle of Magi, Olafur opened the door and welcomed Luca and Emrys into the lobby. There were students milling about and when Olafur learned that the heroes wanted to speak to the head archmage, he nervously ushered them into the private room he had adjacent to the lobby. Reluctantly, the custodian of the Circle went to inquire about an audience with Réonan. When he returned, he lead them to the rear of the lobby, through a set of double doors into a stairwell with a large, winding stairway that lead up and along many statues, banners and other curious items that were collected into the top of the tower they ascended.

Olafur brought them in front of a large statue of a winged lion inside a vaulted alcove, which they had stood in front of before. “Great Prayanti, Guardian of the Scarab Temple of the Great Sand Sea of Noth, grant us access,” Olafur said, and with the sound of dry stones sliding across one another, the walls turned to reveal the head archmage’s inner sanctum.

The Battle at Kinbrace Bluff

Previously, the heroes had aided Neamhan in her attempt to break the curse that rested on Quentin, placed there by a bargain he struck with the Good Sisters at the grove outside of Blackbough. Unfortunately, the grasp of the sisters on Quentin proved too strong and they rebuked Neamhan’s attempt.

Second Day, Second Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is in high sanction, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waning)

Neamhan awoke from her reverie as she often did, very early in the morning, before the Careless Wanderer awoke. With the possible exception of Lauryn, that is. She had failed to break the curse and was considering what to do next. When she heard the telltale sounds of crystalline windchimes Neamhan knew that Wynn was nearby.  He revealed himself soon after and told her she carried the Mark of the Heretic, left on her the previous day during the confrontation with the custodians. Wynn blew a cold breath upon the back of her hand to reveal a glyph of sorts, and told her that as long as she carried the mark she could not leave, and that the custodians would always find her.

Wynn also gave a confusing explanation about his role at the Careless Wanderer, which he referred to as the domain of “Blind Magda”, presumably referring to the owner of the inn. Blind Magda was a signatory in the “accords” and Wynn was representing the “winter court”. He also explained that the inn was considered accorded neutral territory, which is why he had to tolerate the presence of the dragonling, which Wynn went on to explain was a representative of the “summer court.” He was helping Neamhan because the custodians had broken the laws of hospitality when they decided to confront Neamhan, who was under the protection of Blind Magda. It was because the inn had a “weak threshold” that the custodians could even get away with what they did, he reasoned.

Neamhan asked a few cursory questions about the Feywild and how to get there. She learned that there were many ways into the Feywild, in places Wynn called “crossings”, “as many as there were doors half ajar”, he claimed. He also told Neamhan that there were still elves that lived in the Feywild, after telling her that all elves had fey-touched ancestry.

Wynn departed soon after. Neamhan heard Luca leave his room down the hall, walk downstairs and head out of the inn. She peeked out through the shutters to see him heading out into the early morning snow.

Luca had awoken early with a throbbing presence coming from Blackstar that made his vision blurry. Concentrating, he pushed the staff’s incessant intrusion away, and decided that it was time to give the staff what it wanted. He got dressed and headed out into a city covered by a snowy sheet and tenebrific blanket.

Luca wandered the streets of Kingsport, looking for a suitable place to feed Blackstar. The city was dark and quiet, with the only sounds coming from the waking seagulls that were harassing fishing boats about to set sail, and the crunching of the soft blanket of snow under his feet. Luca made his way to The Salt, a ward just off the docks filled with people he deemed expendable.

Wandering the narrow lanes of The Salt for a while, he found a suitable alleyway that was sufficiently hidden from view. It took but a moment before a suitable sacrifice presented themselves in the form of a middle-aged man, dressed like a stevedore, well past his prime and without the demeanour that suggested he had a lot of dependents waiting for him at home. An easy lie and a quick charm got the man to follow Luca into the alleyway where a vicious ray of purple, ruinous energy from the void crystal at the top of the staff took the man’s life. A jolt of familiar pain shot through Luca’s arm, quickly followed by a rush of invigoration, as some of the man’s life energy was funnelled into Luca’s body.

Luca felt strong when the rush faded moments later. His plan to use an illusionary mask to disguise himself as Dick, James’ childhood friend and well-known ruffian, was foiled as Luca found it impossible to access that magic. Troubled by this, he tried to make his way back to the Careless Wanderer without drawing any attention to himself. Which, considering he was dressed in purple robes dotted with moons and stars, might not be as easy as it sounded.

While Neamhan and Luca were starting their day, a newcomer was waking up. Overlooking Kingsport from the coastal cliffs of the gulf to the east, Chakuq was starting his day. He had never seen a city of this size before and it left him awestruck and trepidatious. Somewhere in that city the College of Bards could be found, and some said all of the songs known to the Verdant Kingdoms were known there. While Chakuq doubted it, he was hoping that he would learn more about the songs of the lost tribes.

Chakuq followed the road to one of Kingsport’s enormous gates and found his entrance into the city. He had spent enough time away from his tribe to know how to familiarise himself with a new settlement. He got a feel for the city and its layout, and found out where he could pay for a bed for the night. He decided to look at the lodgings he was suggested, and found that one of them had a sign over the door of a minstrel playing a lute. He liked it, and decided to enter the Careless Wanderer.

Inside he found a warm and welcoming tavern room. A jovial dwarf worked the bar and introduced himself as Durham. When Chakuq asked for some breakfast, a burly cook brought it from the kitchen and excitedly asked him to try some sweet pastries he had been developing. A friendly elf called Lauryn oversaw the running of the inn.

There were only a few guests at the end, and Chakuq’s eye fell on a group of them who seemed very familiar with one another, and equally familiar with the inn. After some quick introductions, Chakug decided to observe them for a while, as they seemed absorbed in the preparation of a great undertaking that did not immediately become clear to him.

The heroes had all woken up and gathered in the tavern for breakfast. Quentin had taken a bath in the basement of the inn, Emrys had come down and Astrid was digging into the food that was on the table. Falka had joined as well, and was spreading out several parchments of notes on the table, ready to share more information on Epidemius with the heroes while they enjoyed breakfast.

Just before Falka started her history lesson, Céleste Deschamps of L’eau Célestes walked into the Careless Wanderer, dressed elegantly. She looked around the tavern until her eyes fell on Durham behind the bar. She approached him and spoke to him for a long time. Quentin made an attempt to overhear the conversation, which seemed to be about buying any surplus stocks of wine the Careless Wanderer still had. Quentin quickly lost interest and started focussing on Falka.

Falka started by explaining her credentials; she had grown up on Dunagore Mount, a tidal island off the coast of Dunashire which was the home to the Order of the Shield, one of the three orders of Lyrian knights. She had been working for the Knight Chronicler of the order since an early age, and was sponsored by the order to study at the Bournemouth academy where she ultimately became an accomplished historian.

The reason why Falka felt her credentials were relevant to the subject is because the history of Epidemius and the Order of the Shield were intertwined as it was in a battle with the Order of the Shield where Epidemius lost his Liber Bubonicus, the Book of Woe.

Falka explained again that Epidemius was one of the seven Proctors of Pestilence. She listed them all; Epidemius, Lord of Decay, Virulencia, Lady of Plagues, Vormiter, Lord of Waste, Malignance, Lady of Disease, Typhorius, Lord of Infections, Antharix, Lady of Poison, and Pestor, Lord of Vermin. All of the proctors were underlings of Baalzebul, an archdevil and ruler of the Seventh Hell, also known as Maladomini. They were responsible for overseeing, advancing and encouraging the development of all manner of diseases, plagues and infections.

The story about how Epidemius came to lose his Book of Woe that Falka told was not a simple and straightforward story.

A demon lord named Lamashtu, also known as the Mother of Monstrosities, had been convinced by Pazuzu, another demon lord, to attack the Order of the Shield. There were several stories about why and how Pazuzu convinced Lamashtu, but the most compelling was that defeating the order would clear the way to raise a monstrous creature from the deeps of the Jagged Shore.

Unseen, Pazuzu slipped into the Nine Hells, found Mephistopheles, Ruler of the Eighth and Lord of Cania, and struck a deal with him. Pazuzu traded the knowledge and details of Lamashtu’s attack for a circular tablet from the archdevil’s personal vaults.

And so it came to be that when Lamashtu’s monsters fell upon the Order of the Shield at Kinbrace Bluff, Epidemius and a small group of his fiends were invited by Mephistopheles to observe the battle and catalogue any new and interesting ways in which wounds festered, infections spread and diseases ravaged. But the forces of Mephistopheles betrayed Epidemius and used him as bait to lure Lamashtu and her monsters out. The demons overstretched themselves and got caught between the hammer and anvil of the infernal forces of Mephistopheles, and the knights of the Order of the Shield.

Epidemius lost the Book of Woe, which fell into the hands of the Order of the Shield when the recovered it after the battle. Epidemius was banished back to the Nine Hells and began the slow and arduous task of climbing the ranks and regaining his station.

Falka shared a passage of old writing she had found which supported the story:

Lo, the pestilent fiend was rent asunder by the monstrosities and sank back into the ground leaving behind its Book of Woe. How the other fiends cackled as one their own was mercilessly sacrificed. They stepped aside as the knights bore down on the demonic horde’s flank, driving lyrium tipped lances, filled with His holy fire, into the heart of chaos.

The Mother of Monstrosities cursed and spat and swallowed whole a dozen of her children and tore open a rift to retreat back to the abyss. The heavens opened and His light shone forth, illuminating the Book of Woe and protecting it from the greed of the other fiends, allowing the Just and Righteous to secure it.

– Teachings of Prior Arturian of Pholtus, First Abbot of the Monastic Order of Apothecaries

According to Falka, a rift was created that day, not just between Baalzebul and Mephistopheles, but also between the Calabim, of which Baalzebul was a member, and the Belseraphs, of which Mephistopheles was a member. This animosity has lead to tension and hostilities between the two bands of devils ever since, while Takhisis sat her throne, fanning the flames of strife.

Falka quote from the Book of the Enemy, a religious text within the Church of Deus, which said;

How the vestments of Maladomini shook with the anger of Baelzubub. He brought indictment against Mephisto, vowing the destruction of the Liar. But the indictment was cut short. The vestment of Maladomi cracked, and the foundations of Cania sundered, as both archdukes were cast down by Asmodeus. Baelzubub for believing a Balsaraph, and Mephisto for conspiring with chaos.

— Book of the Enemy, Church of Deus

Falka continued her story by telling the heroes about what happened to the Book of Woe after the Battle of Kinbrace Bluff. The book was inspected by the order’s Knight Chronicler and their assistant and both went mad from reading the book. The Senhadrim took the book away to a remote part of Dunagore and built a small monastery meant to keep the book guarded and safe. The monks formed the Monastic Order of Apothecaries in the worship to Pholtus, the God of Light and Healing.

Many of the monks fell to madness, disease, temptation, and corruption before they established the rigorous training necessary to safely consume the pages of the book. What the monks learned from the Book of Woe became foundational to a lot of modern healing techniques. They established clinics as part of all major temples to Pholtus. The order’s relevance waned considerably over the ages, but their legacy of clinics survived.

The heroes discussed the Book of Woe, about it supposedly being held by the Order of Apothecaries, while Epidemius claims the Upright Man had possession of it, indicating that it should be still in the vault’s library.

Chakuq, who had been sitting and listening to the lecture by Falka, felt himself growing interested in the discussion and politely joined in, offering his insights as a hunter.

The Good Sisters’ Rebuke

Previously, a Quentin, Luca and Neamhan went to visit Eustace, a gem cutter and jeweller with a small shop in the Southside ward. They were looking for enough diamond dust so that Neamhan could perform a ritual of restoration on Quentin and restore some of the memory he had lost. Emrys, who had remained in the Careless Wanderer, was surprised with a beautifully crafted lute case, which was a gift from the Lady of Evenshade Hall.

First Day, Second Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is in high sanction, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waning)

Luca and Quentin had found Eustace in his small workshop in the Southside ward, not far from Forgewright’s smithy. Darkness had quickly descended on the city and the two heroes could see the man in the soft glow of some lantern lights through the foggy windows of his workshop. When the two heroes entered, Neamhan, who had transfigured into a large raven, hitched a ride on Quentin’s shoulder.

Initially, Luca tried to get Eustace to provide him with the diamond dust for free, arguing that Luca had given him a lyrium crystal to investigate before he departed for Pinefall. Upon his return, he had found that Eustace had sold the crystal to someone in the Circle of Magi. Luca was quite forceful, but Eustace would not budge, even when Luca threatened to get the crownsguard involved.

Quentin decided to step in when things might get out of hand. He adopted the persona of Lord Quentin of House Morvrayne, one he did not enjoy relying on. The jeweller was eager to mend relations and offered his services to the heroes free of charge but did not have any diamonds in stock. Disappointed, the heroes returned to the Careless Wanderer, promising Eustace that they would return with the diamonds soon.

Luca and Quentin discussed the idea of using a lyrium crystal as a substitute for any material component necessary in the casting of magic while they were on their way back to the Careless Wanderer, but when they arrived and Falka reminded Luca that Dunatrim Hardstone had paid 1650 gold crowns for one crystal at auction, that idea was quickly abandoned.

Emrys went through a collection of precious and semi-precious gemstones he had retrieved from Atilesceon’s tower and found some small diamonds among them. Luca, Quentin and Neamhan quickly returned to Eustace’s workshop to catch him before he closed for the day. When they returned, Eustace was surprised, but eagerly got to work and produced the diamond dust the heroes were looking for.

When the heroes returned to the Careless Wanderer for the second and final time that evening, it was way past curfew. It was clear that with the queen’s recovery and the departure of the mysterious plaguemaidens, there was little reason to maintain the curfew, but it had not been lifted. The crownsguard and custodians that were patrolling the streets were warning everyone to make their way to their houses, but there was no sting in their commands, as even they no longer saw the point of the curfew.

Back at the Careless Wanderer, the heroes gathered in Emrys’ room for Neamhan’s restoration ritual. Astrid had to be convinced to part ways with her dice game, and Falka was invited to document the process. After Neamhan transfigured back into her elven form behind an elegant, lacquered privacy screen that was set up in Emrys’ room, she proceeded to push furniture aside to make space for her ritual.

Neamhan used the diamond dust to draw a decorated circle on the ground. Luca asked her whether she needed iron powder, something he was used to using to construct warding circles, but she did not need it. This suggestion got a strong response from the dragonling which sat curled around Luca’s shoulders, and it spurred Neamhan to suggest that Quentin remove his armour.

Neamhan placed a chair in the centre of the circle and asked Quentin, who was now dressed only in woollen trousers and, a padded gambeson, to take place. When she started her ritual, magic filled the room, causing gusts and motes of wind to animate the circle until it fully enveloped Quentin.

While Neamhan was performing her ritual, Luca was magesplaining what was happening to Astrid and Falka. When Astrid found out that the entire ritual was costing close to two hundred gold crowns she got mildly offended. It appeared that she was now calculating the cost of everything in how much it would contribute to her ship.

A light emitted from the inscriptions of the circle, casting the rest of the room into gloom, which raised up over Quentin and coalesced into a single drop. Just as the drop was about to fall on him, a bony arm with long fingers and black nails reached out from the darkness and snatched it mid-air. A triplet of voices rang out abjuring Neamhan’s ritual. “He is ours,” they said sternly.

It appeared that the Sisters of the Grove were unwilling to relinquish Quentin’s memory.

Neamhan, obviously disappointed by the outcome, assured Quentin that she could try again, confident that she would eventually be able to break through the sisters’ defences. Quentin gently refused Neamhan’s offer. In the meantime, Luca filled Falka in on the sisters and what happened in Blackbough.

Aside from the ritual, that evening Luca noticed that Falka was compiling notes on Epidemius. He asked her whether she would be able to do some research on “Aurion” or “Aureus”. She said she would be glad to do so. When she asked a few questions, and Luca suggested that the two names belonged to the same figure, Falka seemed concerned that the suggestion was bordering on heresy. Rather than doing researching into a religious matter, she felt more comfortable only approaching it from a historic perspective.

James finally stopped by the Wanderer, just before closing. He walked in with two guards, both hooded, whom he introduced as Hendrik and Sigrun. He did not seem as concerned with the draconic journal page the heroes had gotten from the Lady of the Raft as a reward for reuniting her with her daughter Luciana, though he was a bit disappointed that the vault that was mentioned was not an undiscovered vault.

According to James the Newport vault was slowly being cleared out and secured. He had engaged the help of Garvan the Tunneler, who had gone into hiding after helping the heroes breach the dark delirium den of the Steady Hand. Garvan had already discovered that the complex was larger than the four rooms that were accessible to the heroes when they were down there. When asked whether it could be a good place to store Muirgheal, James agreed, and suggested turning the halls into a base of operations once it was secured.

James had learned that the Beauclair delegation was roughly two days away from Kingsport, travelling with an escort of the Order of the Lance, including the grand master of the order. When Quentin asked whether James knew if Lord Gauthier was travelling with family, he confirmed Quentin’s suspicion.

Before James and his two guards left via the access to the river from the basement of the Wanderer, he asked whether he could get several lyrium crystals. He needed them to make the key to the halls work and experimenting with a way in which the key would not consume the crystals. This would allow the right people access in and out of the halls.

Before turning in for the night, Neamhan and Luca tended to everyone’s wounds, even taking care of Durham’s black eye and split lip. When Luca showed signs of his healing magic taking a physical toll on him, Neamhan took over and reinvigorated everyone to the best of her ability. While she tended to Astrid she was once again confronted with the raptor-like mask that briefly fell over Astrid’s face. Everyone retired for the night.

While in his room, Emrys was idly admiring the lute case by letting his fingers run along the velvet on the inside of the case. He stumbled upon a hidden compartment, which held a tightly rolled up piece of parchment. Opening it up he found that there was a short message written in the elegant handwriting of Lady Annabella, which read; “And death shall have no dominion.”

An Unexpected Gift

Previously, the heroes were confronted by several custodians who wanted to arrest Neamhan in charges of heresy after she had expressed herself indelicately about the gods. Emrys managed to convince the custodians that conflict could be avoided and that Neamhan would turn herself in at the Tomb of St. Catherine.

First Day, Second Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is in high sanction, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waning)

After the near-violent standoff with the custodians, rest returned to the Careless Wanderer. It was just past fourth bell, and dusk was falling outside. The afternoon would soon be over, and Neamhan was keen on finding the powdered diamond she needed to attempt to lift the curse that Quentin was under which caused him to forget his betrothed.

Quentin and Luca accompanied her to see Eustace, a gnarled jeweller who was working out of a small, cramped workshop in the Southside ward of Kingsport. The jeweller had once taken possession of a lyrium crystal and had promised to find out what kind of crystal it was. This had been just before the heroes travelled to Pinefall and disappeared to Old Llygad. They had only returned months later and at that point the jeweller had sold the crystal to the Circle of Magi, unaware of its value.

Emrys, Astrid and Falka remained in the Careless Wanderer, having no interest in venturing out into the cold. Shortly after the others departed, an older gentleman stepped in the door of the Careless Wanderer, asking after Emrys. He was dressed in fine clothing, complete with a top hat and a walking cane. He approached the table Emrys and the others were sitting at and introduced himself.

Bernhard Brenninkmeyer was a Daerlan crafter of instruments and accessories operating out of a shop in Sevenoaks. He had been commissioned on the Fourth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262 by the Lady of Evenshade Hall to create a beautiful lute case for Emrys. It was made of black leather stretched over a case of steel and wood, with gleaming clasps that held the lid of the case against a gasket, making it waterproof. The inside was inlaid in firm padding lined with burgundy velvet, capable of accommodating many different types of lutes.

After presenting Emrys with the gift, master Brenninkmeyer departed, leaving Emrys to marvel at the craftsmanship.