Category: RPG

Master Angler Closing Ceremony Speech

The speech of Queen Isabella at the start of the closing ceremony of the Royal Master Angler Competition on Tenth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262:

Twenty-five years ago, my grandfather, Prince Amrand, passed away. All who knew him, knew that he was an avid fishermen. He founded the Kingsport Angler’s Association, a club of fishing enthusiasts from all walks of life. From the most exalted of nobility, to the lowliest commoner; all found a kinship in their love for fishing, and all held proficiency in angling to be the highest achievable goal.

The Kingsport Angler’s Association ceased to be after my grandfather passed away. One year later, my grandmother, Queen Marrianne, decided there was no better way to honour my grandfather than to hold this competition in his memory. The angler’s association was reborn, and I am proud to say that after all these years, it is still going strong, and still sees fierce competition.

This year started off with thirty-one teams, each vying for the title of master angler, and the prizes for the best catches. The goal was to catch and present the heaviest of the lightning eel, from the rivers in Eastmarsh, the Ghost Fin Albacore, found along the treacherous Darkshore of Southernhay, and the hardy Rockplate Catfish, only found in the icy streams of Ard Thoradun. Whoever can present them and have the highest combined weight, will win this year’s title!

The catches will be judged by the master of the angler’s association. Present your catches, and may the gods look upon your teams in favour.

A Sudden Change in Direction

Previously, Quentin had visited the shop of Célestes Deschamps, a supposedly well connected wine importer from Beauclair in order to find out more information on the motives behind the delegation being sent from Sanségal, only to find that the true power broker was Célestes assistant, a halfling named Pip. She managed to share the tale of legendary progenitor of house Morvrayne and how it relates to Quentin’s betrothal to Highlord Gaulthier’s daughter, something Quentin had no recollection of at all.

Tenth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is in high sanction, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is in high sanction, Night of Cerulean Eyes)

Silence fell across the wine shop after Quentin angrily claimed Highlord Gaulthier had no daughter. Pip looked towards Emrys, waiting to see how this would play out, and Célestes played with her wine glass coyly but seemed to miss what was going on. Emrys recalled the encounter the heroes had with the Sisters of the Grove back in Blackbough, and the tributes that everyone had made. He had a hard time convincing Quentin that only his tribute had been accepted and that in giving up the handkerchief he had been wearing around his wrist, he had inadvertently also given up his memory of Highlord Gaulthier’s daughter, his betrothed, Gwenaëlle.

Growing ever more frustrated, even when demanding to know the name of Highlord Gaulthier’s daughter he can’t hear her name, and for a moment he believes that Emrys and Pip are playing a cruel joke on him. He was reprimanded by Pip for raising his voice in anger and frustration and told that he forgot that he was a guest in her establishment. Quentin reminded her, in turn, that she forgot that she was addressing a member of the peerage of Le Royaume de Beauclair, at which point she disinvited him, warning him not to make deals with “relicts from the past.”

Quentin left, fuming. Emrys followed, but as he cast a glance through the window of the wine shop, he saw that Pip was frantically putting ink to paper, drawing up a letter or recording the details of what had just happened. Quentin vented his frustration to Emrys about Pip’s unwillingness to say the name of Highlord Gaulthier’s daughter. Emrys tried to explain that she did, and that there was a nefarious magic that was preventing Quentin from hearing the name altogether. Emrys also voiced his concern that Gwenaëlle might be part of the delegation making its way to Kingsport.

Meanwhile, Neamhan had accepted Lauryn’s invitation to liven up the balcony of the church room at the Careless Wanderer. She went all over the city, transfigured in the shape of a magpie, trying to find flowers that she could use. Eventually she stole some flowers from a windowsill and brought them back to the Careless Wanderer. As she landed on the balcony she saw that Ser Liam was packing the last of his belongings into a large duffel bag and locking up the room. She eventually transfigured back to her normal form and went ahead to plant the flowers, using her druidic magic to encourage them to root and grow. And boy did they ever!

Neamhan then went inside to convince Lauryn to come and take a look at what she had achieved. Lauryn was behind the bar, having a heated conversation with Durham. They were obviously in disagreement about something that Durham had proposed to do, but it was unclear what the conflict was about. Lauryn joined Neamhan to look at the balcony and was flabbergasted at how quickly Neamhan had been able to produce results, though she was not fond of how wild the flowers seemed to be growing. Neamhan promised to clean it up, and Lauryn went back inside. Neamhan then spent some time communing with the flowers, requesting them to be on their best behaviour from then on.

When Quentin and Emrys returned to the Careless Wanderer, Quentin decided to spend some time by himself to get his mood under control, but not before asking both Luca and Astrid, separately, to recount what had happened with the Sisters of the Grove when the heroes were in Blackbough. The stories he received seemed confirm what Emrys had been saying and Quentin let the matter rest. When Quentin had taken his leave, Emrys provided some context to Quentin’s foul mood by explaining to the others what had happened at the wine shop.

Luca argued with Blackstar, as the staff’s hunger started to become a evermore pressing priority for it. It had been a long time since Luca struck the killing blow in one of their confrontations, and therefore it had been a long time since Blackstar had consumed a soul.

By the late morning most of the fishermen seemed to have departed the inn, and Astrid had said her warm goodbyes to a lot of them. The inn could almost be considered quiet. Durham was nowhere to be seen, and both Lauryn and Magda had dressed up to attend the closing ceremony of the fishing competition. Wojciech had been left in charge of the bar, while Ramsey continued to tend to the kitchen. As Magda went through the door, Wynn’s fever pitched voice could be heard exclaiming that he would protect over her kingdom in her absence, for which Magda thanked him, referring to him as “ser knight.” Predictably, as the door closed, Wynn’s disappearance was announced by a jingle of crystal windchimes.

Neamhan, believing that Quentin has been cursed by the Sisters of the Grove, offers to help break the curse. Quentin resists the idea initially, believing it best that she does not get involved, but eventually accepts the offer when Neamhan states that her goal is to improve the world, starting with “the most heroic and righteous person” she knows.

When it was time for the heroes to depart for Steward’s Square to attend the closing ceremony of the fishing competition, Neamhan decided to transfigure into a large raven, midnight black except for a few white feathers in one wing, matching the her white hair. She found a clever way to inform Emrys that she had transfigured and was nearby.

The square was filled with people. Few red custodians could be seen, but there were many crownsguard on watch. The main stage was decorated in all splendour, with the scarlet banners of the royal house on full display. Minor stages were set up to serve prominent noble houses.

The queen arrived in a golden carriage, flanked by knights from the Lyrian orders, each sporting their distinct, decorative armour. Other knights, representing noble houses rode in the procession, as did the heavily armoured palace guard.

When the queen reached the stage and made her entrance she was received with loud cheers from the public. The queen looked different, her blonde hair was dark and wilder, less styled. Her style of dress had changed from the frivolous eccentricities of Lyrian couture to a darker, more martial style; a black velvet dress, with decorative, metal pauldrons and a set of decorative metal studs set in the dress. Around her neck she wore a choker of three links of blood coral, fastened with a locket depicting the banner of house Valois. The heroes had seen that choker before; they had found it in the possession of Xamael after his defeat. That choker had belonged to Princess Mildred, the queen’s aunt.

Behind the queen stood Lady Annabella and Lieutenant William. Lady Annabella was wearing a similar dress to the queen, just marked in red velvet rather than black. Lieutenant William was dressed in full, military, ceremonial dress. They both looked like they were trying to maintain a neutral disposition.

When the cheers died down, the queen started her speech:

Twenty-five years ago, my grandfather, Prince Amrand, passed away. All who knew him, knew that he was an avid fishermen. He founded the Kingsport Angler’s Association, a club of fishing enthusiasts from all walks of life. From the most exalted of nobility, to the lowliest commoner; all found a kinship in their love for fishing, and all held proficiency in angling to be the highest achievable goal.

The Kingsport Angler’s Association ceased to be after my grandfather passed away. One year later, my grandmother, Queen Marrianne, decided there was no better way to honour my grandfather than to hold this competition in his memory. The angler’s association was reborn, and I am proud to say that after all these years, it is still going strong, and still sees fierce competition.

This year started off with thirty-one teams, each vying for the title of master angler, and the prizes for the best catches. The goal was to catch and present the heaviest of the lightning eel, from the rivers in Eastmarsh, the Ghost Fin Albacore, found along the treacherous Darkshore of Southernhay, and the hardy Rockplate Catfish, only found in the icy streams of Ard Thoradun. Whoever can present them and have the highest combined weight, will win this year’s title!

The catches will be judged by the master of the angler’s association. Present your catches, and may the gods look upon your teams in favour.

Halfway throughout the speech, James casually pushed his way into the middle of the heroes who were standing off to one side of the square. He had an urgent task that needed to be completed and he knew of nobody else that could do it but them.

Earlier that day, a participant in the competition by the name of Ramona, Lady of the Raft, came to James and bargained for the pickup and delivery of a young girl by the name of Luciana. In return, Ramona would hand over writing that she intercepted that talks about “a vault” containing riches. The place of pickup was Matron Myrtle’s orphanage in Grimsdown, and the drop off was the Calypso’s Song, a ship in the harbour being guarded.

James provided some context; Ramona had been banished after being locked up in the Carceratum for five years on charges of piracy. Around that time she gave birth to Luciana and left her with the father. Since her banishment, she found a loophole; anyone sponsoring a team of fishermen to enter the competition could not be denied their attendance of the closing ceremony, which she had used ever since to come to Kingsport to visit her daughter. She had returned to Kingsport this year to find that not only had the matron of the orphanage died, but also the father of the child; John Sharpe, also known as the night master, also known as Lord Jonathan Ravensbourne. With nobody familiar available to care for her daughter she wanted to take her back to the Raft.

Rather than attend a boring ceremony, the heroes decided to head to the orphanage. Brandomiir had been dispatched by James to make sure the child would be ready for the heroes, and to make contact with Coral, the halfling caregiver that the heroes had met at the orphanage before, who had inherited the place when Matron Myrtle died. The problem soon turned out to be that the ward was still under lockdown, with the crownsguard still keeping the roads in and out barricaded. And so the heroes decided to return to Lewisham and try to retrace the steps that Jeroen the Daerlanian had taken them on to get to the orphanage the first time.

Matron Myrtle’s Orphanage, Grimsdown, Kingsport

In the heart of the Grimsdown ward of Kingsport stands the orphanage run by Matron Myrtle, a kind and just woman who cares for two dozen orphans at any one time. The children are the product of poverty, war, or simply bad fortune. It is said that the matron could afford to run the orphanage by owning the property it is housed in, and by virtue of several benefactors which donate the sums of gold crowns necessary to keep the place warm and the children’s bellies full.

On the Second Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262, Matron Myrtle was found dead after an attack had taken place on the orphanage while the ward was under lockdown by the crownsguard. There are rumours the Steady Hand, a guild of thieves, were responsible for the attack, but the reasons are not known. Matron Myrtle’s assistant, Coral, has now taken over as matron.

The Blood of Alban

Previously, the heroes visited Dagran and collected the weapon that he and his apprentice had forged for Astrid. They also visited Emma, in the hopes of gaining her support in talking to Kasia, but found her wrestling with Muirgheal instead. She reluctantly agreed to help with Kasia, provided the heroes made good on their promise to address the trident.

Ninth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

While teamsters and carpenters were still hard at work on Steward’s Square as the sun went down, nearby the Careless Wanderer was packed full of excited fishermen who celebrated their last day in Kingsport. The following day would be the closing ceremony to the competition, and they were preparing to depart the city to go back to their homes and families ahead of the darkness of winter.

Despite the excitement, there was a hint of sombreness, as the fishermen would soon say goodbye to the Careless Wanderer, as well as some of their team. Emrys took the opportunity to talk to Lauryn to see whether he would be permitted to perform some music as the evening’s entertainment. She thought it a good idea and during supper Emrys took out his lute and entertained the guests.

Supper itself was simple; scarcity of ingredients meant that Ramsey had to get creative. Durham promised that despite the simplicity of the food, there was no shortage of drinks. Neamhan made a comment about there being plenty of water, which earned her a derisive response from Durham, claiming that the patrons of the Careless Wanderer had better standards. This was met by cheers from the now more jovial crowd.

Quentin had decided to sequester himself in the basement with a warm bath. Two of the fishermen were taking baths, too. Knowing that they would be on the road a while once they left Kingsport for home, they decided to treat themselves. Both of them were Lyrian, but only one of them had the recognisable Celtician accent of an Acadian. He fondly remembered the Acadian family whose boat they hitched a ride on through the hinterland of Eastmarsh. And with some sadness, he remembered Michel, one of the two guides that captain Randall had arranged to get them from Eastray to Blackbough, who had not survived the trip. There had been so many people cross his path the last couple of months.

Emrys had rarely had such a successful performance. He started light, while people were still enjoying their supper, and then moving on to more emotional and heavier themes. He made sure to instil each and every one of the fishermen, regardless of their allegiance, regardless of their chance of success during the closing ceremony, with a sense of pride, achievement and accomplishment.

The heroes picked up on the fact that the competition was a neck and neck race between the team of Lord Peregrine of House Blackwell, and Lord Aberforth of House Dunkeswell. It was not that long ago that Ser Liam, a sworn sword to House Blackwell, and dame Morena, an equal to House Dunkeswell, had come to a confrontation over something which could sway the outcome of the competition.

Tenth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is in high sanction, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is in high sanction, Night of Cerulean Eyes)

Neamhan awoke from her reverie with a startle, panting and sweating. Her dream had started out pleasantly, with images of a mountainside meadow filled with wild flowers. She had woken up there and she had smelled the fragrance of the flowers, and heard the buzzing of honeybees. The sky had been clear and sunny, while the air was fresh and crisp. She had been on the slopes of Ard Thoradun, close to her village. She had oriented herself and made her homeward way.

Shortly after there was a peal of thunder off in the distance, from the other side of the mountain’s crest. It had filled Neamhan with a sense of urgency and she quickened her pace. The terrain had been difficult and the wind had picked up, which had fuelled her sense of urgency even more. She had taken a chance by taking on the shape of a falcon and taking flight, hoping to get home quicker.

She had recognised her mistake when the storm started to crest the mountain, flowing down the slope like an avalanche. The dark storm clouds had periodically been lit up by arcs of lightning and it betrayed that there had been a long, serpentine monster hiding inside the storm. Maybe, she had thought, the monster was the storm.

When she had been swallowed by the avalanching storm, she had been tossed around. She had lost her bearing. She had been buffeted by wind, by cracks of thunder, by the monstrous serpent. Eventually the leviathan had opened its maw and swallowed her up and the last thing she had heard was the cracking and crunching of her own bones.

Quentin was similarly startled awake with a sense of dread and foreboding coursing through his veins. For him, his dream had started in the saddle of his golden stallion, walking the dusty paths of Albancourt during a summer sunset. The air had been warm and familiar, and abuzz with cicadas. He had dismounted and had picked grapes from across the fence of a local vineyard. He had sat down in the shade of an old, gnarled olive tree to rest.

Night had fallen faster than expected, and the Silvermoon and Darkmoon were nowhere to be seen. Instead, the Bloodmoon had stood in high sanction, larger and brighter than Quentin had ever seen it. Everything around him had been washed in a scarlet glow, as if Quentin was watching the evening through stained glass.

There had been a sudden smell of fire, and small, glowing embers had drifted on the warm wind, though he had not been able to discern the source of it. He had decided to quickly head home, driving his horse hard. He spotted thousands of small, dark shapes flying through the air, transiting the Bloodmoon, banking and heading towards him. He had checked to find that Róisín was not by his side, though Ser Fulton’s serpent shield had been. He had protected himself with the shield as he drove his horse on. The flying creatures had bounced off his shield but had come in ever increasing numbers, biting at the hide of his stallion as well as latching onto any part of his body that was not barded.

Quentin had been forced to grab every once of control to keep the stallion from panicking, but it was at the cost of his own protection. The creatures, which looked like bats but with skeletal heads and sharp fangs, had drawn so much blood from the wounds they had caused on his legs and arms, that Quentin’s arms had felt weak. Eventually he had lost control of the stallion, who had reared and thrown him off. He had fallen hard but had held on to his shield, it did not protect him and eventually he had gotten caught in a torrent of the vicious vampiric creatures and everything had gone black.

When Neamhan steadied herself and heard a ruckus coming from Quentin’s room, which later turned out to have been Quentin voiding his stomach into a nearby chamber pot, she went to check on him. Neamhan convinced Quentin to take more rest after they both shared some details about their nightmares. The conversation took place in elven, and Neamhan noted that Quentin spoke a learned, borderline academic form of elven, which betrayed that he had not learned it by speaking to elves, but rather from a tutor of sorts.

Neamhan departed and went downstairs, leaving Quentin to record the details of his dreams on a piece of parchment, so that he might not forget any detail. Downstairs, Neamhan joins Lauryn in the kitchen for a cup of hot, brown morning potion to which Lauryn adds some thick cream for Neamhan, which made it a lot more palatable to her.

The conversation quickly turned to living in Kingsport and the distrust of elder races, which in turn evolved into the nature of the Red Custodians and their distrust of all things magic. Both women talked about home, about magic, about family and about friends. Neamhan revealed that her best friend was gifted like her, and had a powerful connection to animals. Lauryn, in turn, shared that she came from a modest, and less unusual background and had no magical gifts herself.

When Neamhan asked Lauryn how she could live in a city that was so devoid of life and natural beauty, she defended it by saying that there were a lot of benefits to city life, but also admitted that she missed a bit of colour and had been thinking about growing flowers on the balconies of the luxury rooms. She asked if Neamhan would help her grow a display of flowers, starting on the church room overlooking the House of the Raven Queen.

While everyone was having breakfast, and Lauryn had returned to her duties, most of the fishermen had completely packed up and were getting ready to depart for Steward’s Square. Emrys checked the weather by looking out of the windows, and Neamhan shared an eerily precise weather forecast, which she claimed to have divined by way of her druidic talents; clear weather, with snow in the evening.

Before the closing ceremony of the fishing competition was going to start, Emrys and Quentin decided to walk over to the Southside district and visit L’eau Célestes, a wine shop which seemed to have close connections with some of the more influential people in the city. The reasons was that the proprietor might have an ear to the ground in Beauclair and be a source of information and rumour about what is going on at court that might warrant a visit from Highlord Gaultier Lys.

When Quentin and Emrys found that Steward’s Square was steadily filling up with people. A large canopied main stage had been erected, flying the scarlet banners of the royal house, where the ceremony would take place. On two sides of the square several smaller stages had been created, each carrying the banners of influential houses. Crownsguard were on patrol to secure the square, but there were surprisingly few custodians around.

The shopfront of L’eau Célestes, a charming corner store on the Street of Spices with an elaborate display of flowers arched over the entrance, turned out to be closed. After a polite knock on the door, a halfling woman named Pip answered wearing an elegant, red velvet dress, complete with elbow length gloves. She had beautifully style blonde locks and a charming splash of freckles. Pip introduced herself as Céleste Deschamps’ assistant and explained to Quentin and Emrys that her mistress was getting ready for the celebrations that day.

The front of house was decorated with a curved bar behind which there were casks of wine of various sizes. There was a doorway leading to the rear which had the open space of a tasting room with floor-to-ceiling racks holding hundreds of bottles of wine of different vineyards and years. Back there, behind a decorated privacy screen, Céleste was putting the finishing touches on her outfit, and Quentin and Emrys were not permitted to enter.

Pip invited Quentin and Emrys to take a seat and asked what wine she might present them both. Emrys deferred to Quentin, who in turn chose an Albancourt red, 1236 vintage. Pip excused herself and went into the tasting room to search for the wine. She after a while with a bottle in hand and apologised, she was not able to locate the right vintage, but had found a 1238 bottle.

After pouring three glasses Emrys was the first to try. He tried to make out the different notes, and after a moment Pip impatiently shared that she hated “when people made a spectacle” of tasting wine, speaking to Quentin in a near perfect Beauclairois. Emrys thought the wine was fine, but nothing special, while for Quentin it brought back fond memories of home. Pip correctly guessed Quentin’s identity, having heard of his stay in Kingsport and believing that nobody else in the city would ask for such a specific wine.

Eventually, Mistress Céleste made her entrance in all her splendorous glory. She was dressed in a red velvet dress, similar to Pip, but this one was adorned with accents of white and gold, embroidered to perfection. Her blonde hair was intricately styled, held together by a slender string of pearls. She was a delightful display of modern, Lyrian couture, with heavy Beauclairois influences.

When she welcomed Quentin and Emrys she did so with a delightful Beauclairois accent which sent Quentin to her side, kissing her on the cheeks in triplet, as was customary. Emrys greeted her according to Lyrian customs, by taking her hand and gently touching his lips to the top of it.

Quentin came down to business after the pleasantries and asked whether there was any news from Beauclair, confessing he had been out of touch since his departure in the early spring. He wanted to know about the delegation coming to Kingsport, hoping to learn something so that he would avoid looking like a fool in front of his father.

Quentin and Emrys learned that with the sudden appearance of Dame Josephine at the Beauclairois court, King Clovis was seen to be weak. He had not been challenged for some time, and her appearance exposed him. Highlord Gaulthier had convinced King Clovis that he could liaise with the Lyrian queen and find in her an ally; had Dame Josephine not been turned away at the Lyrian court as well, after all?

As the conversation continued, it became more and more clear that Mistress Céleste was not the one in charge, but that it was Pip, in fact, who was the true head of the wine business, and quite a shrewd mind, with a knack for politics, intrigue and information gathering. Céleste, on the other hand, was the beautiful socialite that could get doors opened.

Highlord Gaulthier had ulterior motives and, according to Pip, was betting on two horses; King Clovis and Dame Josephine. In turn, Lord Dorian was there because he had turned to House Lys to fund setting up a silver mine. Prospectors had found a promising vein, but Lord Dorian had neither the political, nor the financial capacity to exploit it. Much to his surprise he had found the highlord an eager business partner, and could not believe his luck when talk of marriage had turned hopeful.

When Quentin confessed confusion as to why Highlord Gaulthier would take an interest in House Morvrayne, Pip asked him whether he knew the story of the princess and the swans. Quentin recalled the story, and Emrys had certainly heard a version of it. It was the creation myth of the Celtician noble houses.

The story goes that in a land beyond the Cerulean Sea an old, widowed king fell under the spell of a wicked sorceress who convinced him to remarry her. When the new queen was with child, she turned the king’s eleven sons into swans forced them to fly away, securing her child, which she knew to be a boy, to become king. The king was devastated at the disappearance of his sons and poured all of his love and affection on his daughter, Valetta. The queen was furious and tried to bewitch her, but her purity was too strong, so the queen tried to have her killed. The swans rescued Valetta from the attack and flew her away. The old king died from heartache and his land turned to sand. The queen took the throne and ruled over a desert.

The swans flew Valetta across the sea to a green and verdant land of sidhe and fey folk. There she met a sidhe queen with golden hair who told her she could save her brothers. She would have to travel around the lands to gather stinging nettles from around the graves of fallen heroes and knit them into shirts which would allow the swans to regain their human shapes. For the duration of her task, she would have to take a vow of silence; speaking one word would forever condemn her brothers to remain swans.

Valetta began her task and she travelled around finding the graves of heroes and clearing it of nettles, painfully blistering her hands from the stings. Never once did she utter a sound. And dutifully she spent her evenings knitting the gathered nettles into shirts.

One day a young king found Valetta clearing his father’s grave of nettles as he came to pay his respects. He fell in love with her and offered her a room in his castle where she could continue her knitting. Eventually he asked for her hand in marriage and she accepted. The priest who was the perform the ceremony was convinced that Valetta was a witch, but the young king did not believe him.

One night, when Valetta was almost done with the last shirt, she ran out of nettles and was forced to go to a nearby graveyard to collect more. The priest followed her and noticed that the necrophages refused to approach her. He took their fear of her purity as evidence of her guilt and ordered her to be put on trail for witchcraft.

Because Valleta could not speak in her own defence, she was sentenced to death by burning at the stake. While awaiting her punishment she continued to knit the last shirt. She continued knitting even as she was lead away to be executed, determined to continue up to the last moments of her life.

The executioner lit the fire and it began to spread around her. The swans swooped in and tried to lift her from the fire. Desperate, she threw the shirts over the swans. Her brothers returned to her human forms, all except Alban, the youngest, who had a swan’s wing instead of an arm, due to the shirt not having been completed.

Valetta was now able to speak the truth but she choked on the smoke and lost consciousness. Instead, her brothers explained her innocence. As they did so, the fire around the stake extinguished and flowers suddenly bloomed from the charred wood. The king plucked one of the flowers, a lily, and placed it on Valetta’s chest, reviving her.

They were married soon after. Each of the brothers went to found their own families, including young Alban. His swan wing made him feel like he did not belong and he was overcome with melancholy. One day, he was visited by a queen with golden hair, who invited him to come with her to join the sidhe.

Pip asked Quentin why he thought House Morvrayne had often made disadvantageous marriages. It is rumoured that the marriages are made to preserve the Blood of Alban, a particular sidhe bloodline. After all these generations the Blood of Alban might still be strong, but House Morvrayne had paid the price in political capital.

“Despite House Morvrayne’s impoverished political and financial status, Highlord Gaulthier still allowed for his daughter to marry you,” Pip said. Quentin frowned. “But Lord Lys does not have a daughter,” he stammered, while simultaneously his left hand searched for something missing from around his right wrist.

The Difference Between Urgent and Important

Previously, the heroes spoke to William of Eastwarren, the handsome lieutenant of the place crownsguard, about the queen’s troubling behaviour and promised they would attend the final ceremony for the annual fishing competition, which would mark her first public appearance since her illness. They also attended a funeral ceremony for Hamish at the church of the Raven Queen, lead by Quentin, for whom the ceremony also marked a deepening of his faith.

Ninth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

The heroes continued their day in the middle of the afternoon, leaving them with several hours of daylight, and, crucially, with several hours before the curfew went into effect.

Their first goal was to visit Forgewright Arms to see about the sword the group had commissioned to celebrate Astrid’s recovery. Their journey took them past Steward’s Square, which was abuzz with carpenters building a large stage, which would serve to conduct the award ceremony for the fishing competition and celebrate its winners. Teamsters and their ox-driven carts were delivering construction materials banners, while seamsters were decorating the square with the red banners of house Valois.

The Street or Spices, which normally would be bustling with trade, was quiet and empty. The Street of Steel was as busy as ever, with smoke rising up from various forges, though there were no merchants about purchasing the craftsman’s wares. Instead, the forges were lit to provide weapons for the queen’s royal army.

The same was true for Dagran Forgewright’s establishment. The dwarf was working the bellows to keep his forge at the right temperature. The square chested dwarf with the bald, soot-covered pate and steel grey beard was happy to see the heroes and said they must have felt their ears burning, as he had planned to inform them that he had completed his task.

He lead the heroes deeper into the forge, where weapons and armour were, crafted for the army, were readily on display. With a word, Kargath, the young, orc apprentice everyone in Kingsport knew to be Dagran’s bonded servant, brought out a bundle in which a beautiful greatsword was wrapped. Kargath misspoke and betrayed that the bond between the dwarf and orc went beyond that of master and servant, but the dwarf’s response indicated that he trusted the heroes to keep his fatherly relationship with the boy to themselves.

The brutal blade was beautifully crafted but simply adorned. This had been Kargath’s work. Astrid took the sword and tested its balance and seemed happy with what she held. Despite its simple adornment, there was one thing that stood out; a singular lyrium crystal, blue of colour, had been socketed in the guard of the hilt.

Dagran asked Astrid to steel herself, as if anticipating a hard blow. She found it difficult until Kargath, from her blind spot, suddenly swung a heavy blacksmith’s hammer at her. To everyone’s surprise but Dagran and Kargath, the crystal on the blade radiates a blue light and a magical shield shaped like a kite deflected the hammer. This power came from the socketed crystal.

Dagran explained that these weapons were called “defenders” by the dwarves and that the socketing of lyrium crystals was ancient, even by dwarven standards. It had not been done in many generations.

Dagran explained that the acquisition of a lyrium crystal by Dunatrim Hardstone at a Bournemouth auction had been a watershed moment for the dwarves. Dagran had gained access to ancient crafting manuscripts belonging to Ard Thoradun because he had a lyrium crystal in his possession. His success had boosted his standing among the dwarves. He was the informal ambassador to the Lyrian throne, he explained, but due to Kargath he was no longer permitted to live in Ard Thoradun.

The dwarven smith admitted being happy to have helped the dwarves rediscover and unlock some of these long dormant crafting secrets, but was sad about the consequences; the only reason he was successful was because of the rising tides of magic, and those tides brought with them a promise of horror and suffering.

Emrys asked Dagran whether the dwarven crusaders had made it back to Ard Thoradun, which was something the smith confirmed. The dwarves venerate their elders and Ser Kadagar Ashbeard was hailed as a champion. This had thrown the politics under the mountain in disarray, but ultimately Dagran felt that the knowledge Ser Kadagar and his fellow crusaders possessed about fighting demons was ultimately beneficial.

Neamhan revealed that she hailed from the slopes of Ard Thoradun and Dagran bowed deeply, welcoming the aen gwynt at his forge.

It was time for the heroes to head to the Sacred Baths of Sedna, on the banks of the river Lyn, not far from Dagran’s forge. The dwarf insisted to Luca that no payment was required for the blade, and insured him that they could count on the dwarf whenever they needed his aid.

Just down a small flight of steps to the quayside entrance to the baths. The stone door was opened by Dagmær, who seemed worried but somewhat hopeful to see the heroes. She said that the priestess was in her chambers and the heroes continued through. The corridor was warm and humid, smelling of sage and mint.

Astrid stopped and asked Dagmær something in Helian. The acolyte responded and Astrid followed the heroes. Before knocking on Emma’s door Astrid explained that Emma was not feeling well.

The heroes found Emma sitting on the bed of her sparsely furnished room. Muirgheal was laying on the bed behind her. When she looked up and saw Quentin come through the door first, she said; “Ah, knight, have you come to relieve me of my curse?” Her tongue was sharp with bitterness. “What about the discs? We had an agreement.”

It quickly became clear that Emma had been worn down by Muirgheal’s influence and had grown increasingly frustrated. The heroes had promised to help rid her of the weapon and she hoped it would silence the sea shanty that had been following her around. It was clear that part of her torment came directly from the weapon, which housed a forceful, Senhadrim soul and follower of Dagon, the Father of the Deep and enemy of Sedna.

Another part of her torment came from hearing a particular sea shanty everywhere, which she had first heard hummed by Muirgheal, but since has only heard in troubling dreams. She believed it was connected somehow to the woman in the azure cloak which the heroes had seen when the Old Queen had been attacked by drowners on the river Bourne.

For a second time, Quentin used the resonance of Róisín to make contact with the soul inside the trident. His intention was to see whether anything had changed since the first time he made contact, but alas, he was once again transported to that stormy bay and was witness to tempestuous, grizzled man booming threats at him from across the water. Muirgheal, filled with zealotry and thunder, rejected Quentin and claimed that he was there for Emma, claiming her in the name of Dagon.

Quentin saw no hope to learn anything more and broke connection. He once again pledged to help Emma be rid of Muirgheal and Luca hinted that it could be kept at the Newport vault. This lead him to explain to Neamhan where the Arms of the Senhadrim came from and where the heroes had found theirs. Emrys also have a rundown of the arms the heroes knew the existence of; Toruviel, Blackstar, Muirgheal, the Twin Gladia and Lash. Róisín, notably, was not one of them.

The heroes explained that they were hoping to enlist Emma’s help in talking to Kasia about her encounter with Epidemius. She was willing to help, but explained that she could only do so after she had fulfilled her obligations during the ceremony of crowning a winner at the fishing competition that she was invited to be a part of.

As she was want to do, Emma imparted some wisdom on the heroes; if they were constantly focussing on those things that were urgent, they would never address the things that were important. She urged them to consider what was urgent and what was important, and not neglect one over the other. She implied that the heroes were reacting to everything and therefore distracted from the things that were important. Some of the urgencies could be delegated to the allies the heroes had been fortunate enough to gather along the way. One of these allies, Emma reminded, could be Bláthnaid, the wellspring that originated underneath Garamond Hill upon which sat the royal palace, and whose waters nourished the gardens the queen loved. She might be a source of information the heroes could turn to in order to learn about what was going on inside the palace walls.

Emma also reminded the heroes that some of them, herself and James included, still had an outstanding debt to the Sidhe. If that was not addressed it would become urgent soon too.

An agreement had been reached about Emma’s help in talking to Kasia, and the heroes decided to depart. Before leaving, Neamhan left a watery sculpture in a water bowl on Emma’s desk. She had been playing with it to occupy herself, especially after she had run afoul of Emma by trying to school the Lady of Lakes on the duality that lay at the core of the power of water. Emma, annoyed, made it a point to freeze and destroy Neamhan’s sculpture.

Astrid and Dagmær exchanged a few words in Helian on the way out and the acolyte seemed reassured. And the heroes climbed the steps from the quayside level to the Knightsbridge and walked back to the Careless Wanderer before the curfew went into effect.