Category: RPG

Dreams of Dying

Previously, the adventurers, had entered the tower and started exploring the many floors after having found a young Beauclairois knight who was locked in the cellar. Quentin, as he called himself, had entered the tower together with Lord Destan, only to be separated from him and the rest of his expedition as he explored the lower level while they continued to venture to the higher floors. Together, they explored the library where they found much information in the different pages of Atilesceon’s private journal. They learned about his time at the Senhadrim, his personal rivalries, his interests, his research and ultimately about his downfall and the his attempts to serve his master, Mammon, the archduke of Minauros, the third level of Ba’ator. Ultimately, they discovered his bedroom, his workshop, and a portal guarded by a stone statue which attacked them. After defeating the statue, they decided to enter the portal.

Second Day, Third Wik, Æftera Līþa (Pasture Mōnaþ), 736th Year of the Crusade

Each of the adventurers were assailed by the same terrible dream in which they were followed by a dark horse with flaming hooves. Luca was chased through an abandoned monastery, while Quentin was running through a hedgerow maze. Emrys was chased through an elven ruin, littered with human bodies, while James was trying to escape through the sewers. The damp and earthy smell reminded each of them of something which initially set them upon their individual quests which lead them to the Crimson Tower.

With each flash of the nightmare that was riding them down, they saw the future; of places foreign and familiar, in which a new age of fear had sparked violence and drove people to atrocities. Eventually the horrible images revealed that some people became corrupted by the chaos of demonic hordes, while others became corrupted by the cruelty of the infernal legions. Two armies were set to clash, one were beastly and ravenous in their appetite for destruction, while the other were disciplined and methodical in their wickedness. In between stood a small band of soldiers, dressed in steel armour coloured red white and blue, lead by golden warriors with wings of light. This band would be pulverised between the hammer of demons and the anvil of devils.

Then the nightmare was upon the adventurers and thundered its flaming hooves down on them, mortally wounding them. They were each shown what their spilled blood would cause; Luca saw fungus growing rapidly and spreading noxious spores. Quentin saw the hedges around him wither and die, the blight spreading outward with his death at its epicentre. Emrys watch his blood seep into the veins of the marble of the ruins, pulsing angrily until the dead bodies around him opened red, glowing eyes. James saw his blood mix with the sewage and spill down a drain, from which a strange eye stalk rose up to observe him as he drew his last, ragged breath.

Emrys woke up at an elegant writing desk in a large tent. He was holding a quill and the letter in front of him was one addressed to his beloved Lauriel and spoke of being wed after the military expedition was over. The letter then turned into a series of scratching, profanity before ending with a plea to Paladine to let death take him. Emrys did not remember writing the letter nor did he understand the contents. He suddenly noticed his arms were not his own, and when he found a mirror confirmed that the face looking back at him as he peered in it was not his own, but that of a black haired, bearded human man. The tent held a tactical table with a map of what he later concluded was Pinefall, in particular of the north-western corner of Lake Llygad and its strand. There were two beds in the tent, one of which was holding the unconscious body of a man he recognised as the tracker from Isobel’s hut. He could not be awoken. There were armour stands, weapon racks and a shrine dedicated to Paladine. He eventually learned that he was inhabiting the body of Prior Benedict McAllister, knight-captain in the Order of the Gryphon and devout paladin to the Platinum Father and leader of the military expedition to Gwenllygad.

Luca awoke in a modest tent, with a bed, a chest filled with personal belongings, an armour stand holding a beautiful set of platinum gilded armour, like that of the Order of the Lance as wel as a set of weapons, including a shield bearing the lightning struck oak tree of house Ironwood, whom he last saw in the hands of Ser Florianus when the adventurers met him on their way to Pinefall, watched him ramble and wither away to die before burying his remains and using the shield as a grave marker. When Luca looked down at his own hands, he saw a shock of golden curls tumble past his face; he was inhabiting the body of Ser Florianus. Luca was comforted by the fact that Blackstar was still by his side.

For James the wake up was both more pleasant and more strange. He found himself setting at a dressing table in front of a mirror, in the body of a comely, strong woman with long auburn hair and a long neck. Behind him a short haired woman was brushing his hair, using a ivory-handled brush, decorated with mother of pearl, set with soft, white bristles. The tent he was in was enormous and opulent, set with furniture, carpets and decorations. There were three beds and three armour stands, each holding a splendid plate armour gilded with lapis lazuli. One of the beds was large and richly made up, and the armour next to it was adorned with sapphires and aquamarines. The woman behind him had dark rings around her eyes and looked she performed her tasks with a haunted reluctance. A handsome man came into the tent and announced in archaic Beauclairois, which James was surprised to learn he understood, that Tourbillon was saddled and groomed, before starting to don his own armour. James didn’t know who Tourbillon was, but noticed that the man had the same dark rings and tired look about his eyes. By talking to two squires — or écuyer — he found that he was inhabiting the body of Dame Josephine LaValette, a knight in the Order of the Gryphon.

Finally, Quentin woke up in a modest tent listening to the sounds of a melancholic tune being played on a harp outside. He found his bearing and looked outside of the tent to find a military camp filled with soldiers. His tent was standing next to a larger tent, outside of which stood a handsome man, casually playing the harp. He was remarkable, not only for the harp, but also for the way in which he was observing the rest of the people in camp. There was a great sadness in his eyes. At his side was an unusual wooden scabbard, adorned with what looked like living vines, which occasionally sprouted small buds which quickly grew and blossomed into flowers, before withering away. It became apparent to Quentin that the man with the harp was the legendary Ser Estienne d’Epines and the sword at his side was Fleur, the Sword of Flowers. He also quickly realised that he was inside the body of Durand de Palemerin, Ser Estienne’s squire. Looking around the camp, he spotted an enormous tent who was flying the herald of the LaValette family, an ancient house from the time before Beauclair formed as a kingdom. He decided to head there, hoping to find some answers.

The camp was filled with dozens of knights, hundreds of armsmen. There were artillery engines, horses, griffons, tradesmen, teamsters, cooks, and the supplies necessary to support an expedition of more than six hundred people. It was tricky at first, but it didn’t take long before everyone had found each other and was gathering at the tent that Emrys had awoken in. It had a tactical map of the area and it held the unconscious body of the tracker in Isobel’s care, whom they learned was Ser Edrick the Strong.

Astrid was found to inhabit the body of the seven foot tall monstrosity by the name of Ser Gregorian Longshadow. The adventurers had met him in the presence of the Ser Edrick on the shores of Lake Llygad the previous evening, during the clash of the cavalcades. Ser Gregorian was followed around by his squire Patrick, who kept trying to convince Astrid to keep her armour donned, something she absolutely refused.

Emma found herself inhabiting the body of Dame Victoria Greywater, from the eastern black bogs, not a reference anyone had heard of. She had been afflicted by a voice inside her head who was only screaming incoherently. It had given Emma a headache, which she tried to treat with a ritual at the nearby river where she was found by Luca.

At the river, they were witness to a handful of people who had walked into the deep end of the river to be taken by the current. Another suicide happened in front of the commander’s tent, where a dead-eyed man opened his own throat with a knife and bled out while people nearby seemed not to notice. It became very clear that most people in the camp were acting like very strangely. Some were going through what looked to be well-practised motions, while others were acting out of sorts, committing suicide, weeping, screaming, or just sitting still in catatonia.

While talking to one another in the comfort of the commander’s tent the adventurers started to piece together what was happening to them. They quickly realised that they were about to replay the events of the battle at Gwenllygad where the crusaders would be betrayed by the Senhadrim mage Atilesceon. With the help of Blackstar, Luca confirmed that all of their bodies housed a soul, and a faint, secondary soul, which likely belonged to the original crusader. Both Emma and Quentin had been able to hear a voice inside their head and identify it as their host’s soul, but Quentin had not been able to commune with them, and for Emma it proved impossible due to the state of insanity that the soul was in. Quentin shared his suspicion that Ser Estienne was unlike many of the other crusaders in camp, and he was quickly summoned.

Ser Estienne was indeed unlike the other crusaders. He explained that this day had been played out countless of times and that everyone was compelled to play their part, always with the same outcome. As time wore on, everyone’s ability to resist the compulsion to play their part was worn away until most people were nothing but mindless automatons. He explained that he believed that the magic of his sword was what had protected him and allowed him to retain some of his sanity, but that the sword had lost much of its power over time. Eventually, when the magic in the sword had depleted, he too would succumb.

The crusaders, Ser Estienne explained, were cursed to remain in Old Llygad for all eternity replaying the events over and over again. Many people had entered over the ages, some of them managed to escape, leaving the crusaders behind, and some of them had failed to escape and eventually merged completely with the crusader whose body that were inside of. Ser Estienne believed that the curse could only be broken by winning the battle for Old Llygad.

The knight also shared more details about the battle, about the betrayal, and about what was going to happen later that day. This was the original plan; air cavalry would engage the flying demons attacking Atilesceon’s tower, supported by artillery, preventing them from harassing the ground troops. At the same time, the cavalry would charge the demons on the shores of the lake in formation. After the first charge, as the cavalry was wheeling around and preparing for their second charge, the infantry would emerge from their ambush inside the treeline and engage the demons on the shore, allowing for the cavalry to get ready for another pass.

But this is not how the battle played out. Instead of the infantry completing their ambush, they themselves were ambushed by demons emerging from portals that opened up with frightening precision behind them in the woods. The infantry were attacked in the back, routed, and the cavalry went unsupported and therefore found themselves out of position and quickly overwhelmed as they tried to wheel around. Once the demons collapsed the rear guard and overwhelmed the artillery, the air cavalry was doomed, and eventually the entire camp of civilians with them.

On occasion, Atilesceon would change a few things about the battle, especially early on. He would give them exotic weapons, strange mounts, others siege engines, different numbers, different opponents, but the result was always the same; he would look on from his tower and observe how the crusaders were defeated and defiled as their bodies were nailed to the tower walls by the victorious demons.

Lauriel Skycaller, the Senhadrim priestess of Sehanine Moonbow, who was to be wed to Prior Benedict upon completion of the expedition, and who was the one that Atilesceon was obsessed with before his fall, was also called to the commander’s tent for conversation, but her mind seemed too fractured, she was too disturbed, to yield any immediately useful information.

When the bells started to toll, everyone in camp started to get ready for their departure south, along the river, in order to engage the demons on the shores of Lake Llygad. Most of the crusaders remained dead-eyed as they started to move out. James decided not to fly out on Tourbillon, her tempestuous griffon, but instead ride out on horse back together with the rest. The plan was to ride for the tower and try to gain entry.

When the lake finally came into view, it was apparent that demons were already skirmishing on the shore in front of the tower. From afar the aberrant monstrosities looked like a crawling chaos. They came in all shapes and sizes, each defying description in their hideousness. High up in the sky, winged demons were circling the tower, probing its defences. Surrounding the tower was a shimmering dome made of what seemed like a thin sheet of water. At the base of the dome, on four sides of the tower, strange water creatures could be seen fuelling the dome. The creatures were large and closely matched the descriptions given by the Bristlecone villagers of Lady Llyn, the protector of lake Llygad.

Each of the adventurers were deeply shaken by the sight of the demonic horde. The crusaders marched on, the infantry breaking away early to enter the woods and flank from the west while the cavalry rode out in formation and the griffons riders flying in overhead, supported by the scorpion ballistae shooting bolts the size of small trees at the winged demons above the tower.

Both James and Astrid failed to steel themselves against the horror that was about to play out and decided that getting drunk back at camp would be preferable than to stay to watch the crusaders’ inevitable defeat. The realisation that they were trapped in a reality which was playing out over and over was too much for their minds to comprehend and so they turned their horses and fled back to camp. Quentin, disgusted at the sight of such cowardice went in pursuit, while the others merely stood, awestruck at the unfolding carnage.

At camp, Quentin was incapable of convincing James to stand his ground as he relied on Dame Josephine’s abilities to mount Tourbillon and take to the skies. On the back of the alabaster griffin he flew as far north as the bird would take him but soon found himself enveloped in mist, turned around and heading back south. After several attempts he landed the griffon in a nearby clearing and drank himself into a stupor until the horde of demons finally caught up with him as they had with each of his companions. He died drunk and screaming.

Second Day, Third Wik, Æftera Līþa (Pasture Mōnaþ), 736th Year of the Crusade

After each of the adventurers suffered a violent death at the hands of the demonic horde, side by side with the rest of the crusaders, they once again awoke in the same place, in the same position, in the same bodies, at the exact same time on the exact same day as before. The felt nauseous and incredibly shaken by what they had experienced, but luckily they found each other much more easily and Emma managed to perform a divine ritual that calmed everyone’s nerves and they once again felt back in control. They did, however, realise that with every death they would suffer, their resolve to simply comply with the compulsion the rest of the crusaders were under would erode.

They made plans to see if they could talk to the Senhadrim priestess, to find Gorden, the remaining house Sheridan guard that is in camp somewhere, and to search the camp for any writings that would give them a better idea of the situation in camp before the assault. All in the hopes to find a way to defeat Atilesceon, to break the curse that holds the crusaders in its grasp, and to find their way back to Pinefall.

Exploring the Crimson Tower

Previously, the adventurers had been confronted by the strange clash of the two cavalcades; the forces of the Silver Crusade and the demonic hordes which assaulted them at the Crimson Tower. Suffering through a turbulent night on the shores of Lake Llygad, they were greeted with the horrifying appearance of the tower during the first light of the morning. Before the tower disappeared once again, the adventurers ran down the causeway and moved into the tower and started exploring the ground floor.

Third Day, Second Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

After having spent some time on the ground floor, looking at the various suits of armour and tapestries lining the walls, the painting above and the furniture in front of the hearth, the elaborate dining table and the huge candle-filled chandelier hanging above it, the adventurers started working on solving the crystal puzzle they had found kept a lock on the trapdoor leading to the cellar. They had found a blue and a red rod, and they were confident they could break the wizard’s playful attempt at securing the way through.

It proved harder than they had initially thought, but eventually did manage to solve the puzzle and the trapdoor could be opened. The space beyond was completely dark, save for the light coming from the chandelier. James was the first one to go into the cellar and was surprised to hear the voice of a man calling out at him.

The man turned out to be Ser Quentin Morvrayne, the son of a nobleman from Beauclair who had been locked into the cellar for a long time. He had arrived at the tower together with Lord Destan’s expedition, but had gotten separated from the others when they were exploring the tower and the trapdoor had shut behind him, locking him in. He had subsisted on some of the food and drink he had on him, and on what he could find in the pitch black, which hadn’t been much.

The cellar itself was spacious but not as lavishly decorated as the ground floor. It held a torture table, with various wicked looking implements, as well as manacles with which people could be shackled to the wall. It also held some crates, casks and barrels of provisions, which were the cause of Quentin’s survival. Without them, he most certainly would have perished.

The adventurers, ever cautious, asked Quentin to disarm himself and hand over his sword, which readily agreed to. He was weak, and allowed Emma to escort him up to the ground floor living room so that they could talk more about Lord Destan. In the meantime, James took some time to examine the cellar, where he found the green, crystalline rod.

Upstairs, Quentin had told the story of meeting Lord Destan while he was on a personal quest. He wasn’t too keen on sharing too many details about his quest, but some did notice he was fidgeting with a rather effeminate handkerchief which was tied around his left wrist and concluded that this must have had something to do with it. Through some tactical questioning on the part of the adventurers, they found that Quentin had met Lord Destan while he was in the company of his three house guards, as well as Robart, the villager. Quentin also seemed really eager to hear about what had happened to Lord Destan and his retinue and was saddened to hear that some of them had died while others had returned with their mental health no longer in tact. He proclaimed not to know about the tracker residing in Isobel’s care.

During this long discussion, some of the others started to take a look at the trapdoor in the ceiling at the top of the wooden steps that were set into the wall. They found that this trapdoor was locked by one of Atilesceon’s crystal puzzles and it proved significantly harder to solve. They did, however, manage to find out the mechanics of the crystal puzzles and how the crystals interacted with the crystalline rods. One of the mechanics seemed to be that both the blue and the green rod, when changing the colour of one of the crystals, also seemed to affect the crystals directly adjacent to that crystal. The red rod seemed to be the exception, which did not affect adjacent crystals. Some rods turned certain crystals into their own colour, some rods turned certain clear, and some rods turned certain crystals into a colour not their own.

Once the trapdoor to the second floor was unlocked the adventurers moved onward. They found that the second floor was Atilesceon’s personal library and study with bookshelves lining every wall, filled with books of all shapes and sizes. Most of them seemed old but well cared for, mostly written in an archaic form of Lyrian that was hard to follow. Three elaborate reading tables were set up among the bookshelves, each seemingly being dedicated to a particular topic of study; the planes, military history and engineering.

There was one hearth, with again a trapdoor on each side, one in the floor, from where the adventurers came from, and one in the ceiling at the top of wooden steps set into the wall. The one going up was not locked by a crystal puzzle.

Notes could be found everywhere, some of them scattered, some of them laid out neatly on the reading desks. They seemed to be Atilesceon’s words on a wide array of subjects. Most of the journal pages were read aloud by one of the adventurers as they read through all of them, picking out the ones that interested them. Some saw names that they recognised, others touched on subjects of personal interest. Only one was not for public consumption, as James surreptitiously palmed an entry on the mysterious Upright Man.

Emrys found himself interested in the entry on Mohiam, her plots and how those plots were affecting Atilesceon, who was romantically interested in one of her disciples. Emma pointed Emrys to a journal entry which spoke about the Arms of the Senhadrim, and mentioned Toruviel by name. Emrys decided to take a moment for himself to commune with the sword, hoping to get a more direct communiqué from Toruviel, but unfortunately the bond between sword and wielder was not strong enough for that yet, and all that Emrys gleaned was repulsion and rejections; for Atilesceon, his work and ultimately for his betrayal.

Quentin, while leafing through the different journal entries came across one which touched him deeply; about how Atilesceon was in love with Lauriel Skycaller, but how that love went unreciprocated. It also mentioned a dark pact that Atilesceon had struck with someone called Mammon in return for possessing Lauriel. And then there was the mention of a “prior”, but it was unclear how they factored into things.

Luca, overwhelmed with all the information, read an entry on Tharizdun, but decided not to share it with the rest. He did however, read another entry aloud that dealt with something called the Seal of Divine Animus, which Tharizdun put in place to shield the planes of the Ethereal Mist from the Astral Sea and the Elemental Chaos. Emma, in turn, read about the ebb and flow of magic and how the Seal of Divine Animus also prevented the Ethereal Mist from their access to the weave of magic.

When Luca took a moment to commune with Blackstar in the same way that Emrys had done with Toruviel, he found that the entity inside the staff was as hateful towards Atilesceon as Toruviel was.

It became clear that some of the journal entries were quite recent when Emma read out an entry that dealt with the Daerlan Empire and its current emperor. Taking another look at the journal entries, it appeared that there were some that were remarkably older than others. Some were of this age, and others were of the age of the Silver Crusade.

Hejduk found an entry on the szygani to read, and it slowly became clear that Atilesceon was very concerned with what he called the Tablets of the Elemental Eye. They seemed scattered among several figures, and that collecting enough of them could lead to someone who referred to as the “Illusive One.” Pazuzu, a demon, had five tablets, while the devil Mammon had three. Various others had one or two in their possession, including some people that the adventurers had met before or heard of.

At that point, James started to go through many of the books in the library, finding that most of them were written in archaic Lyrian, which would take time to decipher. He decided to find the two most expensive looking books and store them away in his magical bag.

When Luca found a journal entry on something called the “Ritual of Returning”, which was a ritual designed by Atilesceon in order to escape a place he called “Old Llygad”, he decided to note this down in his tome. He also noted that the cost of performing such a ritual was very high; the sacrifice of a willing soul.

Afterwards, Luca performed a ritual that attuned him to any magical aura and investigated the study, only to find that nothing stood out to him as magical in nature. That’s when the group of adventurers moved to the next floor, finding there a lavish bedroom, with a large four-poster bed covered in the plushest feather pillows and mattresses, made up with sheets of the finest silks.

There were also windows, letting in an eerie pale white light. Two doors lead to a wide balcony that looked out over the front of the tower and part of the causeway. The walls were clear and made of pale stone, not at all crimson-stained and lined with suffering victims.

The surroundings were shrouded in a pale, milky mist, diffusing the light all around. There was no sun, nor moon, nor other light source available, and yet the mist was evenly white in all directions. Very gentle waves could be heard in the distance, like that of a small lake. A titanic, shadowy creature moved like a shade through the mist at a great distance. It was unclear what the creature was. Nothing could be made out other than that it was much taller than the tower. The creature didn’t seem to notice or care about the adventurers.

After some fumbling with a mirror tied with a rope to a sword, trying to create enough of an angle to see beyond the overhanging jetty above them in the hopes of seeing further up the tower, the mirror slipped and smashed to pieces on the causeway below.

After running out of things to do on the balcony, James decided to go back inside the bedroom and do a thorough search of the floor. The only thing of interest he found was a jewellery box with a set of earrings, a necklace and two rings in them. He asked Emrys whether he could see if they were magic or not, but Emrys responded by saying that this was not part of his arcane repertoire. Once Luca was done transcribing the Ritual of Returning, he confirmed James’ suspicion that the jewellery was all magical. And so the jewellery box disappeared in James’ magical bag.

When the group moved up to the next floor, they found it filled with artificing tools, including hammers, chisels and pliers. There is a small anvil and a forge, which lay dormant. There were two baths, filled with oil and water, and a small smelter, surrounded by ingots of different metals; iron, tin, copper, silver and gold. There were shelves filled with curious glass bottles and ceramic jars, containing strange liquids, powders and pastes. And lastly, there were precious and semi-precious stones and crystals, though no Lyrium.

Emrys, spotting the precious stones, went to look for a piece of obsidian, which he would need to fuel one of his spells. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to find any. James, however, quickly separated some of the more precious stones from the semi-precious stones and pocketed a small cache of them. Luca convinced everyone to help out in filing down enough iron and silver to supplement the iron filings he had gotten back in Allenham. He explained that it would greatly benefit the group in the battles to come, since it would be able to protect against the fiends that they were reading about. Everyone went to work, using the tools to file down the ingots until Luca had enough to fuel his spell.

In the meantime, James went downstairs to the bedroom and stripped the bed of the silk sheets, fashioning them into a makeshift bag. He took it down to the library and started to fill it up with books, taking about fifteen books in total before the bag became too heavy to drag around.

When the next crystal puzzle was solved and the next trapdoor up was opened, it revealed a wide, open space with a large statue directly in the centre. Made of stone, it was humanoid in shape but about the size of an ogre, with large crude arms and legs, and a blunt, shapeless head. Behind the statue, against the wall, stood a large marble archway, covered in a translucent, blue film, behind which lay the black void of a rift, much like the ones the adventurers had seen in the catacombs beneath Lynnecombe. At the base of the archway they saw the same molten slag and jutting crystals they had previously encountered, which seemed to go hand in hand with the formation of these rifts.

When James cautiously stepped into the room to investigate, the statue came to life and started to move. “Intruders…” it said in a low, rumbling voice, and pursued James, who quickly darted back downstairs. The statue didn’t pursue James any further, but a clear crystal embedded in its torso started to charge up in a vibrant blue light until with a thunderclap a bolt of lightning arced out from that crystal to painfully hit James.

Quentin demanded the return of his sword, which the group obliged him in, with Astrid kindly reminding him that if he raised his sword against any one of them she would pound him into dust. Quentin assured her and went down to the living room to retrieve a shield from one of the decorative suits of armour. He found a suitable kite shield made of wood, rimmed with a steel band.

In a concerted effort the group engaged what was surely the crimson guardian that Atilesceon had spoken of in his journal, they managed to use the rods to keep the guardian from using the powers of the crystals against the adventurers by touching the crystal with the appropriate rod during the time the power was charging up. Eventually the guardian was defeated, though not without some of the adventurers getting bludgeoned themselves. The life extinguished from the guardian in a super nova of flame that it sent out all around it in a desperate attempt to defeat the intruders.

The adventurers discovered one last crystal puzzle, embedded on the marble archway, which they solved and the protective bubble dissipated and the rift lay naked in front of them. The sound of the ever receding waves that they remembered well from the first rift became louder and more compelling. A conversation was started on whether to go through.

Emrys felt deeply uncomfortable at the sight of the portal. The unease he felt in the pit of his stomach was familiar to him. It reminded him of the moment right after his mentor Voriel disappeared. He was dreading the decision he had to make.

Confidently, Luca decided to step through with Hejduk obediently following him. They were sucked into the pit of the void until they could no longer be seen by the remaining adventurers. Next up were Astrid and Emma, and Quentin quickly followed. Only Emrys and James remained behind. Emrys hesitated for long moments, but eventually overcame his feelings of dread and also entered the portal.

James, the only one to remain after Emrys went through, watched as the wisps of light that had been getting caught in the pull of the void started to chaotically flicker like lightning. The flickering rapidly became more erratic and there was a rumble coming from the portal that started to shake the foundation of the tower. Cracks started to appear in the marble archway that held the portal, and James knew that there was something about Emrys that had caused the disruption. Knowing this, he dove into the rift without further hesitation, forced to leave the silk bag of heavy books behind.

Atilesceon’s Journal Pages

Old Journal Pages

On Mohiam…

Her influence has grown considerably among the crusade and the other Senhadrim. She is… appealing. She has been marrying her disciples to people of influence and it leaves me to wonder if she has plans for me too.

I am having a hard time getting through to her. She isn’t receptive to my suggestions and appears to be unwilling to consider my offer. Her disciples constantly accompany her, which makes it hard to build a rapport, let alone trust. A change in approach is in order. Time to grab the gorgon by the horns.

I am done with her and the games she plays. This is the last time she makes me look like a fool. But I found out her secret; she is not marrying her disciples off for mere influence peddling, this is an elaborate, multi-generational breeding program! She might have more friends on the council, but I am have more friends among the crusade. We will see who has the last laugh.

I have struck a deal with the Dark One. Those traitorous crusaders will pay for chosing her side over mine. They turn a blind eye to her manipulations and becoming willing pawns in her breeding program because they get supplied with wives, and abjurers to boot. I simply have to lure them to Gwenllygad. I will then be able to work on perfecting my creations for an eternity… and she will be there too. Forever. For me to do with as I please. Forever.

On the Arms of the Senhadrim…

Some of these fools are discussing their own mortality, what will happen to them once they pass. They are concerned that their death will have a significant impact on the war effort. I wonder how long it will be before the word “necromancy” will be uttered on the council floor.

Well colour me even more baffled by this than I already was. None of them brought up the usual solution to the problem of death, premature or otherwise. No, instead of necromancy, they are looking to me for enchantment advice! They want to infuse themselves with their own arms. Even the ageless lunatic Toruviel is considering it. The more thought I give it, the more I think it could work, even if I do think it’s absolute madness.

In an intense ritual which was not for the faint of heart, the first of the Senhadrim transferred their souls into their chosen weapons. Their sacrifice was hailed as by everone as bravery. I still maintain it is lunacy. Their souls might be maintained, but not all of them maintain their sanity…

On Lauriel Skycaller…

Mammon has granted me every wish provided I continue building war machines for him. I have minions that satisfy my lusts and every whim. I have riches beyond comprehension. I have the prior in Old Llygad, defeated over and over again. I have everything I said I desired. He has fulfilled the contract to the letter. And yet…

I should have been more careful with the contract I signed. I was to have Lauriel, but she is caught in Old Llygad much the same as the prior. I have her, but she will still never be mine.

On Tharizdun…

The Mad God, the Elemental Eye, Maškar, Hermod, the Aspect of Luck, Erevan, Hanseith, never has there been a deity so misunderstood. Never has there been a deity who sacrificed so much for the innocent in the Ethereal Mist. Now hunted by all other deities and powers, for the secrets of the Seal of Divine Animus. Trickery, misdirection and change is their domain, and for aeons they have remained undiscovered. Undiscovered by all but one; their most devout follower and the author of the Tablets of the Elemental Eye.

On the Seal of Divine Animus…

When Tharizdun had finally healed from the influence of the Shard of Evil and saw what they had wrought in the Elemental Sea, when they saw the extent of the eternal conflict of the Blood War, they recoiled in shame and horror. They took pity on the mortal creations on the planes of the Ethereal Mist and parted with a sliver of their divine animus to seal the mist off from the Astral Sea and the Elemental Chaos before going into hiding. As is the nature of their grace, the Seal of Divine Animus is ever in flux.

On Senhadrim Politics…

I joined the Senhadrim because I wasn’t a crusader. But the crusade is what held my fascination. Quickly, I learned that the Senhadrim was less of an organised structure, and more of a collection of individuals with an arcane or divine background who wanted to participate in the crusade. They all had their own ideas and ideals on how to collaborate with the Silver Crusade and the Senhadrim was an attempt to galvanise those differences. The council quickly became a place for debate and exchange, which sounds more appealing than it really was. In those days there were few institutions and every man and woman who was touched by the arcane had to do much of their research on their own. That lead to some wildly different approaches that proves hard to unite. In that sense, the clerics had an easier time integrating into the Silver Crusade, which consequently lead to many of them leaving the Senhadrim and helping the crusade directly. Without the wisdom of the clerics to lead the Senhadrim, the council became even more fractured. Mohiam focused on placing as many gifted diviners and abjurers among places of influence as she could, chasing a prophetic fantasy. NAME focused on efforts to appeal to solars and deva directly. And I tried to equip the crusaders with the war machines they required. Scorpions with lyrium tipped bolts and arcane powered trebuchets. Everyone was collaborating in a different direction, trying to undermine each other in order to secure the most resources. I am glad I am valued for my contribution. I no longer work for the mortals and don’t have to deal with the politics, but the goal remains the same.

On the Ebb and Flow of Magic…

The Seal of Divine Animus protects the Ethereal Mist from the horrors of the Elemental Chaos and the subjugation of the Astral Sea, but it also dampens the access to Mystra’s gift. As the Seal waxes and wanes, so does the Ethereal Mist’s access to the weave of magic. My departure from the material plane to Minauros has unlocked my access to the weave in a way I am still not able to fully comprehend…

On Crossings…

There has been a lot of talk among my peers about crossings, recently; areas where the fabric between our plane and the other planes in the Ethereal Mist are naturally thinner and could be more easily breached. There are fey crossings and shadow crossings, leading to the Feywilde and the Shadowfell, respectively. Oftentimes these crossings are guarded. A fey guardian can sometimes be persuaded to let someone cross by performing a ritual. A fell guardian can sometimes be persuaded to let someone cross by making an offering. What kind of ritual or sacrifice requires intricate knowledge of these realms and their mechanics. It is theorised that there are astral and elemental crossings as well, which allow for people to more easily cross over to the different plans in the Astral Sea and Elemental Chaos, but I have yet to find proof of this.

I have found where I will erect my tower. On the placid shores of Llyn Gwenllygad is where I will make my home. There are both nearby fey and shadow crossings, and I have found proof of an astral crossing now, too. The only thing that’s missing is an elemental crossing, but three out of four is beyond what I could have hoped for!

On the Blood War…

The Blood War. The eternal conflict which started out as a rivalry between the Elemental Chaos and the Astral Sea, has now warped into a war between the Abyss and Ba’ator, Tanari’i and Baatezu, demons and devils. Before the Pact Primeval angels were fighting a losing battle against the ever expanding potentiality of the Abyss. But once Asmodeus established Ba’ator as the primary afterlife of the mortals from the planes of the Ethereal Mist, angels no longer had to corrupt themselves in the fight. The baatezu could now recruit among the wicked arriving in Ba’ator and use the rest to fuel their war efforts. Once I understood how misery and suffering could be leveraged as fuel, I could start my research in earnest.

I have often wondered about the Seal of Divine Animus and why the two sides in the Blood War care so much about access to the Ethereal Mist. It is simple, really; the Abyss seeks to destroy all of creation, just like they did with the reality that the first demons came from. Ba’ator tries to prevent this, able only to fuel their war efforts with the souls of mortals who have strayed from the path set out for them by their divine creators. If the demons can destroy all places in the Ethereal Mist, they effectively cut the devils off from their only source of real power. After that, it would only be a matter of time before the demons take the planes of the Astral Sea.

Recent Journal Pages

On the Age of Arcanum…

The most innervating time I’ve ever lived through was the Age of Arcanum, when we were celebrated as pioneers and the heralds of all that was good and virtuous about magic. Before, and after, magic was considered something to be feared, the tool of fiends and all who served them. I went from a valued member at any court in the land, to a feared and reviled threat to any society I interacted with.

On the Senhadrim Beacons…

When the great waning set in, I observed with great interest as the last remnants of the Senhadrim slowly dwindled out of existence. I watched them blow out the lanterns, lock the doors and close up shop. But we all knew that the Seal would not last forever and there would come a time where the shop would be opened back up and the lanterns would be relit. They understood that when that time came, the Senhadrim Vaults would be valuable source of information. And so they left magical beacons whose signal, with the coming flow of magic, would start to shine more brightly until the vaults were once again unlocked and rediscovered. Their light is very faint, right now, almost imperceptible. But the former Senhadrim, like myself, will soon be sensitive enough to start picking up their signal again. Then the race to recover what’s locked away will be on.

On the Khazra…

The tribal khazra from the beastlands are likely to be our best collaborators, as they are more intelligent and dependable than the skaven and less uncompromising than the minotaurs. I have sent minions to establish contact with some of the tribes chosen to investigate what are now known as the Elder Foothills, as I wish to equip them with artefacts which  may be able to detect the beacons.

On the Minotaurs…

The minotaurs are Ba’ator’s most dependable and precious minion race. Strong, dependable and unshakeable warriors utterly devoted to the archduke they serve. They are militaristic and honourable. As such they are most often deployed to areas of strong military opposition or theatres of war. They do not suit our purposes. For now. The favour which my creations have curried with them might become useful in the future.

On the Skaven…

Of the different minion races, the skaven are primitive, cowardly and the least intelligent. Their only strength seems to be the sheer number their hives seem able to field. They are organised in clans, all of which seem to have their own crude specialisations (e.g. pestilence, assassination) and their society seem centred around the worship of the Horned Rat, a servant of Baalzebul, the archduke of Maladomini.

A note of concern about the loathsome skaven is that they are susceptible to demonic corruption and their continued subjugation during the Blood War cannot be guaranteed. We will have to keep an eye on their hives on Carceri for the next few millennia.

On Kalauranthalasis…

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

On the Upright Man…

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

On Dr. Arkenward…

Out of professional curiosity I track the movements of some of the promising wizards around, and this one caught my attention when he was appointed as the court abjurer to the current ruler of Lyria. His only form of compensation was an old and dusty stone tablet from the royal collection. Could it be? Dr. Arkenward will get more of my attention…

On the Daerlan Empire…

The expansionist tendencies of the illustrious emperor Wilhelm var Adelheim-Stoltenborg are impressive, but his decree that the practice and pursuit of arcane inquiry and discovery be regulated and only limited to the military is a travesty. Despite my own proclivities towards the military – I did join the Senhadrim with the express interest of aiding the crusade, in all my youthful naivety – I begrudgingly admit that this leaves many areas of discovery unexplored. Their aggression, however, did unearth one of the tablets from the personal collection of the Daerlan arcanist outlaw known as Griswald the Grey.

On the Szygani…

During my time in Lyria, before departing the Senhadrim and the crusade, the phenomenon of the szygani was a rarity so much as to be unknown. Since, hostilities, in what is now Mazuria, has lead to a diaspora of these curious people. Notoriously unaligned and reviled, their natural arcane connection is undeniable. They are one of the last to openly worship Tharizdun, in the form of Maškar, and therefore it didn’t surprise e to learn that one of the Tablets of the Elemental Eye was rumoured to be in the possession of one of them. It is unclear to me who; if there is any truth in their thieving nature it could literally be any of them.

On the Ritual of Returning…

As I want to be prepared for the possibility of returning some of the prisoners of war, and of course those who occasionally have found their way to Gwenllygad, I have devised a ritual which would allow me to let them depart. It has been modified, over time to separate the visitor souls from the prisoners of war. In my younger years, when I was still hopeful that Lauriel could be reasoned with, I adapted the ritual to allow for prisoners to be returned, too, but I have since destroyed any written evidence of that. The ritual is lengthy and requires a crossing to the right realm in the Ethereal Mist. The ritual is also very costly, as it requires the consumption of a voluntary soul, as the “burden” of imprisonment needs to be taken on my someone. Below are the details of the ritual, as well as my ongoing research on how to mitigate that almost insurmountable cost.

On the Senhadrim Vaults…

Recently we have started to deploy several of clans of the loathsome skaven in search for artefacts among the old crusader vaults. Some valuable things were recovered, some of the old Senhadrim arms among them. Their souls are being interrogated as we speak. After my departure from the Senhadrim, when the seal slammed shut and the age of arcanum came to a close, the Senhadrim created vaults of their own where they hid their treasures. I am almost certain we will find at least one or two tablets among those collections.

On the Devil Mammon…

During my time at the Senhadrim we knew the legends about the archdevils that ruled over Ba’ator. From the lore, we all developed a particular idea about each one of them. When I got in contact with the Dark One, I was quite surprised to learn that the lore was not even remotely close to the truth. No opulence, no gaudy jewellery… no, just a hunger for power and influence. The currency is not gold or precious gems, it’s knowledge, it’s influence, it’s clout. It takes all kinds of shapes, like souls. Like my soul. But sometimes it’s more material. Like the three tablets in the Dark One’s collection. I have yet to learn what the purpose of the collection is, but I dare to hazard some guesses…

On the Demon Pazuzu…

Pazuzu goes by many names. I call them the great corrupter. They swayed Asmodeus to abandon the “glory” of servitude. They have long ago targeted Tharizdun for corruption, and while that didn’t work, I am convinced Pazuzu is going to try again. How do I know this? Because I have learned that Pazuzu is in the possession of five of the Tablets of the Elemental Eye. It is said that with fifteen or more tablets, it should be possible to locate the Illusive One. If the demon gets to Tharizdun and manages to corrupt them, like the Shard of Evil once corrupted the Mad God, then nothing will stand in the way of the Abyss destroying all planes in all realities.

On the Crimson Guardian…

I am very proud of my creation. After water, I have now mastered stone. It shall serve as the guardian to the portal to and from Old Llygad. I have imbued it with the possibility of a directed lightning attack. It ejects flames on all sides and it can self-repair. It takes a moment for these abilities to take effect, and during that time there’s an option to alter or abort these functions.

The Tower At Last

Note: my recollection of the events during this session is severely limited due to the events of the last few weeks. The recap is shorter and lower on detail as a result.

Previously, the adventurers conducted more research around Pinefall, gathering more information about the region and its people by talking to Bristlecone villagers and the visiting szygani camped outside of the abandoned village.

First Day, Second Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

While searching through the abandoned village, the adventurers spoke about the nature of their mission, what they had signed up for, and whether or not they might need to renegotiate their contract with House Sheridan in light of them possibly having to enter the cursed Crimson Tower in order to find Lord Destan. And then there was the question of the message that Falka had received from House Sheridan, dissuading her from helping the adventurers on their quest. Were they even still doing House Sheridan’s bidding? In the end, Emma offered to send a message using her divine gifts, explaining the situation and possibly starting a renegotiation of their deal with House Sheridan.

While visiting the nearby szygani camp, Luca decided to approach Hejduk and talk to him in depth about what brought him to Pinefall. Luca used the information that was given to him by his master to quickly find that Hejduk was indeed the “other who serves” that his master mentioned. He quickly convinced Hejduk that he would have to join the adventurers in finding and entering the Crimson Tower, something he was nervous but eager to perform.

Because the adventurers had committed to the plan of entering the Crimson Tower, most of them spent some time coming to terms with what was about to come. Astrid and James went back to the Rudwick barton to drink while James wrote his mother a letter. Emrys and Luca went to speak to Isobel once again to try and see if there was any way in which they could have access to the tracker without James’ involvement. There wasn’t, but she did sweeten the deal by offering a pearl that Luca could use in his divination rituals. She also promised to cook the adventurers a nice meal.

While the adventurers ate, Luca shared his plan to bring Hejduk along with him, which met with surprisingly little resistance from the rest of the group. He spoke about how Maškar, the szygan deity, had brought Hejduk to Pinefall and that his destiny lay inside the Crimson Tower. Luca also shared what Emrys and himself had discussed with Isobel and that she had expanded her offer.

Second Day, Second Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

The following night the adventurers were awoken by a storm; rumbling of thunder and the sound of rain hitting the shutters. Light kept flickering from beneath the cabin door and in the cracks of the shutters. When the adventurers opened the door and peered outside, they were confronted with a chaotic scene of the wind blowing branches and leaves everywhere while the moons were obscured by dramatic clouds.

There was screeching and howling in the air as well as strange cackling laughter. The sounds of leathery wings straining against the howling wind could be heard, with the occasional crack of a whip and the rustling of wicked chains. Wicked shadows could be seen flying overhead, but never in enough detail to make out what it was.

In the morning, the adventurers spent time at rest. The conversation turned to Emrys’ upbringing among the elves of the Aen Adhar of the Riverlands. He explained that he was raised in a cult of Sehanine Moonbow and was a prophesied child, but that much to his frustration it never became clear what it was that he was supposed to do. Emrys believed that his sometimes erratic magical ability might be at the core of the belief of the Sehanine cult, but that his occasional lack of control over his magic has lead to results far worse than his hair turning silver and his eyes radiating with light; it lead to the sudden disappearance of his tutor, the elf named Voriel. Emma recognised the name as the person Emrys had pledged his Sheridan reward to in the case he didn’t return from the mission.

After that conversation, Emrys seemed in a melancholic mood and he decided to continue writing the ballad he had dubbed “The Tragedy at Allenham.”

James decided to pay Drummond a visit and handed Drummond the letter he had written and asked that if he did not return from his upcoming expedition that the letter be delivered to his mother back in Kingsport. The old, retired soldier happily obliged James’ request.

What eventually moved James to decide to part with a lock of his hair was only known to James himself, but the adventurers finally set foot in the witch’s hut. Inside, they found the witch was preparing a meal for the adventurers while the gaunt form of the tracker lay asleep in a small bed.

As you enter the small hut in the middle of the forest your senses are immediately overwhelmed by the rich smell of Mazurian beef goulash coming from a large pot hanging over a small fire in the stone hearth. Tenderly cooked meat swirling in a thick broth of onion, capsicums and tomatoes, rich with pepper, cloves and garlic.

It’s dark inside and your eyes take a moment to adjust to the shaded surroundings. A large table stands in the middle of the hut, set with cups, plates, bowls and cutlery for all of you. Above the table, among the rafters of the moss covered roof hang wreaths of garlic, and thick bushels of rosemary, lavender and dried mandrake.

The hut is decorated with furniture which holds small jars, trinkets, spice racks and kitchen utensils. Several pots of different sizes are standing next to the hearth as well as a rack with implements to raise and lower the fire. Dried firewood is stacked neatly on one side of the hearth. A rope is strung from one end of the room to the other, just below the rafters. It holds several articles of clothing, hanging out to dry.

In one corner of the room stands a small bed in which a man lies asleep. He has dark hair and a gaunt face. He is handsome if it wasn’t for his pale complexion and his sallow features. His face looks peaceful. His hands are placed above the blanket that covers him, gently resting on his stomach. His posture reminds you of a tomb effigy.

A curious circle set with an elaborate star, adorned with unsettling symbols has been carefully drawn on the wall against which the bed has been placed. Small fetishes of dried flowers, feathers and bones have been pinned inside the circle there where the lines of the circle and star cross. The symbols seem to have been retraced with a thick, red liquid. Possibly blood. It has long since dried up.

In the other corner of the room, an owl is sitting on a perch observing everything. Elsewhere a black cat is asleep on the floor amongst several balls of wool, dyed green.

The adventurers spent some time investigating the unconscious tracker, especially after the witch revealed that he had a burn mark on the inside of his hand that was almost identical to the one that James bore. Luca noted, not for the first time, that the curious design of the mark reminded him of several wizard marks he had seen circle trained mages use as a personal seal. Fading bruises and healing wounds dotted the tracker’s body, but nothing serious, except the wound on the back of his head, which seemed to have been caused by a blow.

Once again, Luca made use of Blackstar’s ability to find souls for its consumption and found that unlike Robart, a soul housed inside the tracker’s body. Not only that, but there was a faint, second soul hidden inside the body as well.

While the adventurers discussed what their discovery possibly meant, Isobel took the lock she had received from James and started to create another fetish, weaving his hair into it, together with the small feather of a local songbird and the head of an acorn. She pinned it to the arcane circle above the tracker’s bed, explaining that she believed that James’ connection to the tracker would help power the circle in keeping the tracker’s soul from departing its body.

The conversation continued over the meal, though not all of the adventurers ate the offered food. Isobel did not seem to notice as she was beaming at Astrid’s appetite. The conversation quickly turned to Robart and his lack of a soul and the adventurers decide to talk to Coranthe, retrieve Robart and let Emma perform the Ritual of Restoration in the water of the pond behind Isobel’s hut. Isobel explained that she chose the location of her home because of the presence of a so-called “crossing” around the pond, where the fabric between the realities in the ethereal mist was thinnest.

Surprisingly, Coranthe was very susceptible to allowing Robart to accompany the adventurers into the woods. But unfortunately the ritual was not successful; both the tracker and Robart were unchanged, though Robart, having waded into the waters of the pond and washed by the priestess, did have a much needed bath.

After putting the tracker back in his bed, the adventurers said their goodbyes to Isobel who gave them a parting gift of two pearl earrings. When Luca said the agreement was for but one earring, she snapped at him demanding to know what she was going to do with an earring without its matching pair.

Robart was returned to Coranthe and Luca went to visit the szygani camp to instruct Hejduk to be at the western shore of the lake before dawn the following morning. He then returned to the farm and performed a divination on the leather bracers that James had pulled from the giant’s camp several days before. They turned out to benefit the wearer with an unnatural gift of archery.

Luca and Emrys spent some more time discussing the matters of prophecy and the arcane. Luca shared what he had learned from experimenting with the Lyrium crystals and gave one to Emrys to boost his magic in case of an emergency.

Third Day, Second Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

Just like the previous night the moons are largely obscured be thick, angry clouds from inside which lightning flickers. Occasionally the lightning bursts through the clouds to the outside, where it dances and plays along the bottom of the clouds, and streaks across the sky like angry, jabbing fingers. Thunder no longer rumbles in the distances but now cracks loudly overhead. Rain drizzles down in waves as the wind blows in.

The sky is the colour of dark purple, as the Bloodmoon and the Darkmoon light up everything around you whenever the clouds part. Like the night that Luca and James met Kalindras the procyon scout and fought against Liliana, everything is awash in a constricting, purple glow. The Silvermoon is in slow ascent and occasionally tries to provide relief, but never long enough or strong enough to inspire you against the foreboding of its siblings.

When the sounds of screeching and howling start again, much closer and much clearer this time, strange shapes and shadows can be seen against the dark and purple clouds, like colonies of overgrown bats streaking across the sky. Whenever lightning strikes you are affording flashes of detail of the figures flying overhead; images of maws and claws, of spikes and talons, of maddening sadness and terrifying wickedness too horrifying for your minds to entertain.

This time there are other sounds and images, too. Those which your mind is all too eager to focus on. Of the alabaster feathers of majestic griffons and the blue and steel of the knights that sit astride them. They streak across the sky like lightning, vigorously engaging the dark shapes with a heroism and confidence that you have a hard time fathoming.

High above the lake, the two cavalcades clash. Fire and radiance, steel and claw. All against the backdrop of the Night of Violet Eyes.

Before dawn, the adventurers get up and prepare to go and search for the tower while the darkness outside is the home to terrifying images. They decide to redistribute some of the healing potions that they liberated from the Alfred Barnaby’s Concoctions and Decoctions back in Bournemouth. Emrys also took possession of the fire breath potion. When they were finally ready, they went out into the darkness, meeting up with a visibly shaken Hejduk at the bridge across the river.

After crossing the river the group ventured north along the western shores of lake Llygad, seeing roving parties of strange monsters and patrolling parties of armoured knights. When the group stumbled close to a group of knights, James decided to throw a rock at them in order to see whether they would respond, half expecting the rock to pass through them as if they were a spectral image. To his surprise, they did respond, calling out a challenge James had heard before in the catacombs beneath Lynnecombe; “Decerte!”

He remembered that Ser Arman de Courtenay called that out to the knights he lead in pursuit of the skaven, and they responded with “Adversa!” And so James said just that, with as much conviction as he could muster. When he did, the knights looked visibly relieved and lowered their weapons to approach the group.

There were three knights, two in the vermilion-adorned armour of the Order of the Shield, and one was wearing the lapis lazuli coloured armour of the Order of the Gryphon. They were accompanied by two others; a male dwarf and a female elf, both armed and moving with the confidence of experience warriors.

While one of the knights of the Order of the Shield was a towering individual standing at a height to rival that of Lord Marcus Sheridan, the real shock came when the knight of the Order of the Gryphon removed his helmet to reveal the face the adventurers had only seen hours before; this was a less gaunt version of the tracker in the witch’s hut. Healthy and strong. He introduced himself as Ser Edrick and ordered them to go back to the expedition camp, taking them for camp followers.

The adventurers watched the knights and their armsmen move off back into the darkness and decided to hide out until the violent storm and strange clash of cavalcades had passed. They waited until dawn started to appear on the horizon, forcing the strange purple glow of the Night of Violet Eyes to make way for the orange glow of a new day. The group made their way to the shorelines and waited.

As the storm slowly subsides and the sky in the east starts to lighten with the coming of the dawn, you are left with a chill in the core of your stomach, caused by the bizarre events of the last few hours. You watch as the first rays of sunshine start the crest the eastern hills and hit the surface of Lake Llygad. The shimmering reflection of the sun momentarily forces you to squint your eyes and the warmth of the light softens the ill feeling in your belly. You briefly close your eyes to enjoy the sun and listen to the lapping of water up against the shore.

You open your eyes again as you hear water start to rush in retreat, reminding you of the sound of the rift you once heard in the catacombs beneath Lynnecombe. You watch as out on the lake, at about a hundred paces away from shore, you see a huge maelstrom appear with at its centre a dark, cavernous drop, leading who-knows-where.

At the edges of the maelstrom several figures have risen from the lake. They have a faintly humanoid shape, only much larger, standing at the height of two normal men. Their bodies are made of coursing water, roiling inside of them. They don’t seem to have any legs, nor a head, but they hold their arms aloft their burly torso and you notice the glint of thick, golden bracers at their wrists.

Suddenly, you see the battlements of a stone tower arise from the centre of the maelstrom. It rises up faster and faster as it reaches high in the sky, revealing its blood stained walls. When it stops rising, it stands at the height of twenty men, surrounded by a stone, protective wall. A rampart leads up from the water to an opening in the front of the wall.

The bodies of hundreds of people have been nailed to the surface of the tower and its protective wall. Some of the figures are writhing in pain, moaning and howling from the agony. Some have missing appendages; bloody stumps where their limbs used to be. Sometimes you see limbs impaled on spikes without an attached body. Some bodies are strung up by their own entrails. A row of heads line the top of the wall.

The figures with the golden manacles sink back into the water as the maelstrom stops spinning and the water once against comes to rest. You notice that just below the surface of the lake, a causeway leads up to the rampart.

Gathering the necessary courage, the adventurers, together with the szygan Hejduk, started to make their way across the causeway. Luca was struck with a sudden doubt and Emma had to call upon the calming rituals of Mother Sedna for Luca to regain his confidence. Trailing behind the others, Emma and Luca ran across the causeway, almost slipping on the wet stones and skidding into the water. Luckily they made it in time to go through the large front door before the tower once again disappeared and was swallowed up by the lake.

Inside the to circular tower the adventurers were confronted by a wide open floor, comfortably decorated with chairs around the hearth, a large dining table surrounded by sturdy, high-backed chairs, and walls lined with well-maintained suits of armour lining the wall, polished to a high sheen and playfully reflecting the dozens of candles set in the chandelier above the dining table. Above the mantle hung a large portrait of a balding man wearing an opulent, red, ermine-trimmed robe.

On the left of the chimney was a trapdoor leading down, on the right of the chimney was a set of wooden beams set into the wall to form a staircase ending at another trapdoor in the ceiling.

The adventurers looked around and found two curious, crystal rods, one blue, one red, on either side of a bowl overflowing with fresh fruit. They also found that the trapdoor seemed to be sealed by two sets of three small crystals. One set were all clear, the other blue, red and blue again. James and Luca immediately started to experiment using the crystal rods on the clear crystals, which changed colour whenever they touched them. They thought that they would have to turn the clear crystals to the same pattern as the coloured, example crystals, but it turned out to be more complicated than they thought.

A Simple Lock of Hair

Previously, the adventurers arrived in Pinefall and made their way around the area, meeting various people. They found that Lord Destan had arrived in the village of Bristlecone and had been a guest at a prominent farm until going on an expedition with his guards, the local dog breeder and a tracker from the neighbouring community of Hunter’s Hollar. Rides later three survivors of the expedition were found outside of Bristlecone. It was Destan’s guard Jenna, who died soon after, the dog breeder, who had lost his mind, and the tracker who was unconscious and taken to the witch for healing. The witch was unwilling to give the adventurers access to the tracker in her care until James parted with a lock of his hair, which he refused. A trip to Hunter’s Hollar revealed that Destan had come to them for aid in finding the Crimson Tower, but all of them refused. They could not explain who the tracker was in the care of the witch further deepening the mystery.

Tenth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

The adventurers found themselves at the abandoned village once again after having explored the shores of Lake Llygad in search for any sign that Lord Destan and his expedition may have left behind. Having found not a trace, and having been spotted by the szygani, the group decided that some of them would approach the travellers. Emma, Emrys and Luca decided to head towards the caravans, while James and Astrid sat down between the wild sorghum to have themselves an adult beverage.

The broad-shouldered, mustachioed szygan that the adventurers had heard playing the violin upon arrival introduced himself as Tibor. He seemed friendly but a little bit apprehensive of the adventurers, but he introduced his wife Selina and his children, Dimmi and Danika. Selina offered the adventurers some small bites of sausage, bread, butter and salt while Tibor offered small glasses of plum liquor.

The others szygani were Hejduk, who was explained to be the group’s “guide” and interpreter of the signs of Maškar, and Mikula and her three daughters Mira, Kezia and Lavinia.

While the conversation turned more amicable between the three adventurers and the szygani, Tibor asked whether or not the James and Astrid would be interested in coming to join everyone. When they arrived, drinks and food were offered, and James was very keen on getting his hands on some of the plum brandy. He found out that the szygani did not create the drink themselves, but had bartered for it to the south, before coming to Pinefall. Their supply was not endless, but James managed to get his hands on eight bottles of the liquor, paying a hefty sum of two crowns and five stags for them. The bottles disappeared into his bag with ease, one by one.

Tibor explained that they had arrived in Pinefall not so long ago, following Hejduk’s interpretation of the signs that Maškar was giving him. He told about the tension between the szygani and the villagers of Bristlecone and about how Drummond came to that tension and explain a few things.

When Luca went to have a conversation with the mysterious, pony-tailed Hejduk, who had been observing Tibor talk to the adventurers, Emrys decided to start playing his lute. He played a cheerful, upbeat tune that Tibor could easily follow with his violin. Together they played and Mikula sent her daughters to dance around the bonfire. James noticed that Mikula’s daughters were probably well-versed in the art of distracting people with their dance, especially men with a fat purse.

Hejduk turned out to be as wary and apprehensive as Tibor initially was, but never eased up. Luca and he spoke about esoteric matters including Maškar, magic, the Circle of Mages and about Luca’s staff. Hejduk explained that he was not formally trained and that he had picked up some tricks along his travels, mostly from other szygani.

When the sun was going down the adventurers headed back to Bristlecone, just in time for them to catch Harm the shepherd, the vulgar and impulsive Volker and Gillian, one of the spinsters with a joy for drink. James ingratiated himself with the Rudwick hands using the newly acquired plum brandy and as time wore on one by one people turned in for the night.

The adventurers found their cottages hot and humid and cleverly made use of their ability to chill water and objects in order to cool themselves down in order to go to sleep.

First Day, Second Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

The following day Luca woke up in the middle of the night from the terrible warmth and humidity in the cabin. The magical means by which the adventurers had cooled the cabin had long since worn off, turning the cabin into a steam room as hot as the Sacred Baths of Sedna in Kingsport. Emrys and James were still vast asleep. He felt the urge to go outside and there he was confronted by his master.

Standing in the middle of the guest cabins, impressively tall with that strange, wasp-like waist, he foretold that Luca would be making an important journey and that on that journey he would have a chance to find important books. He would have to find information on the whereabouts of Tharizdun the Mad God. This would be the way in which Luca could repay his master for all the power his master had bestowed on him. He would also be gifted a boon; upon completion, Luca would be allowed to ask one question which his master would answer honestly.

Before that, however, Luca would have to help “another who serves” who was close by. Luca would have to find a way for “the other who serves” to go along with Luca in order to complete a very important task. Luca thought of Hejduk the szygan. With that understanding, his master bent down on those powerful legs and jumped up into the air like an arrow from a bow, disappearing in a streak in the clouds high above. Luca went back to the cabin to ponder the interaction.

James woke up with a terrible itch on the strange mark he had on the inside of the right hand. He had incurred the mark on that strange night he struggles to remember, before being found in the catacombs underneath Lynnecombe. He remembered flashes of being in the Sheridan library, riffling through their book collection when something happened in a hot flash of light, leaving him with that strange burn mark on his hand. It was that burn mark that Ser Benten mentioned when he urged James to go and find his companions and set off to return Lord Destan, ” since it is his mark you bear, after all.”

It was before dawn that everyone awoke to set out before the first rays of sunlight would crest the hills in the east, hoping to discover some clue about the poem that they recovered from the Bournemouth academy library. The adventurers had considered that the poem was a riddle to find and gain entrance to the Crimson Tower, but so far they had little to corroborate this theory. The Night of Violet Eyes was drawing closer and perhaps they might catch a glimpse of the tower.

As the adventurers started on their walk towards the lake they followed Harm the shepherd and his flock and sheep along the road, across the bridge and toward the lake. He expertly guided the flock with the help of two expertly trained dogs, likely from Robart’s kennel, through an series of intricate whistles and noises.

The conversation came around to the poem they had found in Bournemouth and in particular to the line “The white eye is to be explored.” The adventurers were unsure what this “white eye” was referring to, and they assumed that it was likely the lake.

Having found no traces of the crimson tower as the sun rose above the hills in the east the adventurers returned back to Rudwick’s farm where they enjoyed a nice breakfast. During that time they decided upon a plan to go and talk to Gregory, a local bee farmer, and Drummond, an armsman who retired to Bristlecone after serving in the Order of the Gryphon.

Gregory and Elora turned out to be a delightful older couple living in Bristlecone in a large cabin. They found Gregory in his garden tending to one of the several beehives while Elora was on the other side of the cabin tending to a vegetable garden. The adventurers sat down with them in the shade of a large tree in their garden and enjoyed some of the mead that the couple created from all the honey they farmed from the hives.

The conversation was pleasant but revealed little interesting information. The adventurers found out that the abandoned village had been abandoned for several generations, and they found out that “the white eye” referred to Lake Llygad, which used to be called Llyn Gwenllygad, which translated to “Lake of the White Eye” in an archaic dialect of the elven language spoken in the area long ago.

While the conversation with the old couple was winding down the adventurers noticed Isobel coming up the road, riding a large, black hog, making for an outrageous sight. She stopped in front of Gregory’s garden and asked to speak to James. She reiterated her offer to allow the adventurers access to the tracker in her care. Her price was unchanged; a lock of James’ hair. She did, however, up her ante, saying that she would reveal more about the curious mark on the palm of James’ right hand. James did not agree to the deal and with a smirk Isobel once again mounted her black hog and calmly rode it away.

After that strange encounter, the adventurers said their goodbyes to Gregory and Elora and went to visit Drummond. They found the barrel-chested man in front of his cabin. Their conversation ranged from the recently arrived szygani to the mobilisation of the Bristlecone villagers against the possible threats that the adventurers had seen on their way over from Allenham.

Most importantly, they spoke about Lord Destan and his expedition, particularly about the three who returned. Drummond explained that it was Vulgar Volker who found the Sheridan guard Jenna, Robart and the tracker just north of the bridge on the other side of the river. Drummond was one of the first people to be brought to the scene to help out. Jenna was alive then but had an awful gash in her side and she succumbed to her wounds near the bridge. Robart was carrying the tracker and was raving like a lunatic before his mind collapsed when they reached the bridge.

After the conversation with the retired armsman, the adventurers headed back to the abandoned village. They had previously spotted some abandoned items and the szygani had told them that quite a few interesting things were still around, so they decided to take a look and see if they could find out a reason why the village was abandoned all that time ago.

Rummaging through the village, they ended up finding a chest full of well-preserved linen fabrics hidden away underneath a thick copse of ivy, a dried leather pouch hidden behind a loose stone of a chimney holding eight heavily oxidised copper coins, two worn silver coins and a well-preserved gold crown with the face of King Philip the Tenacious on it. King Philip famously survived an assassination attempt during the Beauclair occupation on the night of Midinváerne in 1068 at Gryphon’s Roost, the nearby home of the Order of the Gryphon.

The real prize find was a scroll case with a collection of papers, together constituting a journal of sorts.The legible papers read the following:

Third Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1187

As predicted, tonight is the Night of the Three Eyes. Last year the Night of the Three Eyes was during the second ride of Winter Deep and therefore less terrifying. It’s the long summer nights that make the night worse on the shores of Llyn Gwenllygad. The year before all three eyes stayed closed. And the year before that it was two days before Highharvestide. Soren has said that if the cavalcade came once more from the Roost we will leave Pinefall for good.

Seventh Day, Second Ride, Summer End, 1187

Tomorrow we are leaving the only home we have ever known. Soren has promised that Fairfields might be far, but that there will be work, there will be people, and we won’t have to relive the slaughter or get woken up by the screams any longer. Soren can work the fields, and I can work the quill.

Ves and Steffen will stay. They believe folk like us won’t survive without the protection of Lady Llyn. Soren says that if the lady cared for us Ves would still have her own hair colour, and would still be able to talk.

I wonder who will live in our hut.