Category: RPG

A Time of Contempt

Previously, the adventurers learned about the history of the venomous dagger; a green dragon by the name of Kalauranthalasis was enslaved by a priest of the dark queen named Melchior who harvested its body to fashion the dagger and many like it to carry out assassinations of seemingly random people in name of the Takhisis. The adventurers also managed to catch a boat ride upriver with an elf named Kedelon, a friendly and simple fellow from Allenham, who was also travelling with Rickard and Willow. The journey to Allenham was quiet and pleasant, taking about a day and a half before arrive at a small pier just south of town.

After disembarking and saying goodbye to Rickard and Willow the adventurers walked towards Allenham with Kedelon. They came upon an old, gnarled hanging tree in which six non-human bodies were strung up and a message of racial bigotry against non-humans underlined the motive of the hanging. In town it appeared that tension between humans and non-humans were running high due to a capricious magistrate and a decade old feud involving Kedelon’s family and the Allen family, the influential founding family of the town.

Fourth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

The adventurers departed the magistrate’s building, leaving Strickland to stew in the mess that he had made. They were interested in getting the perspective of some of the other notables in town in order to get a complete picture of the situation. They decided to continue the ruse that Luca was a mage sent down as a royal envoy to investigate the Procyon activity in the area. Their first stop was Syndarael’s cottage, where they once again met up with Emrys, who was still sitting outside with Toruviel across his lap, enjoying the sunshine filtering through the leaves in the trees.

Everyone who had not been introduced got introduced to Syldarael’s family and her halfling friend Tiff, who was helping out and providing everyone with a nice cup of restorative herbal tea. In the meantime a conversation was had between Emrys, Luca and Syldarael. The rest remained outside so as not to crowd the little cottage too much.

It was revealed that Allenham was founded about one hundred and fifty years ago by the Allen family. Syldarael was part of a local elven community and the two communities were joined when a blight went through the area, leaving the elves unable to hunt or forage for food. The Allen family bartered food for labour and soon the elves and humans were living side by side.

It was also revealed that Allenham and its environs were part of the crownlands, owned by House Valois and governed by magistrates. Rickard and Willow lived close to Allenham but were from a neighbouring estate owned by House Hardwin of the Cloisterwoods. Emrys was familiar with the Cloisterwoods and House Hardwin, since they were both neighbours of House Blackwell of the Cloakwoods, with whom had had history.

Another thing the adventurers learned was that Strickland had only been magistrate for a few years. He took over after shadowing the previous magistrate, a man by the name of Crossley who had spent thirty-five years developing the area of Allenham, for over a year before Corssley retired from his position and went to live somewhere in Fulham.

It appeared that Syldarael’s main goal was to make the violence stop, either by strong punitive action towards the perpetrators, or by diffusing the situation by calling off the wedding. She’d rather see punishment of those who are transgressing the queen’s laws, but is willing to sacrifice her daughter’s happiness if there is no other option. She made sure to let the adventurers know only when her daughter was preoccupied.

After the adventurers departed Syldarael’s home, they talked amongst themselves about possible solutions. When the idea was raised of just continuing to Pinefall and leaving the situation in Allenham to be dealt with the Allenhammers, Emrys said that he could not allow that. Emma pledged her support, while James and Luca pledged their support grudgingly. Astrid had no strong opinion either way.

Several options were discussed and the idea of finding a suitable replacement for magistrate Strickland seemed to be a strong favourite. It was decided to go to the Allen family to see if it was possible to talk to Herman Allen. When they found him receptive to a conversation the adventurers continued their ruse of Luca being an envoy for the crown. Herman lead the adventurers to a shaded area to one side of the main building of his large farm.

Some cold milk was served for Herman and each of the adventurers. Once again, James made an effort to be rude by rejecting the offer of hospitality. He was as eager to rub the Allen family the wrong way as he was eager to show disdain for Syldarael’s family.

Under the guise of investigating the Procyon activity Luca asked Herman where he thought the violence in Allenham originated from. He claimed that the former engagement between the magistrate and his daughter Martha was water under the bridge, but that he felt that Strickland had shown favouritism towards the non-humans in allocating new farmland to them. He held no bias towards the elder races or other non-humans, and pointed at the large number of them in his employ as evidence. He rejected the idea that he had any responsibility for the violence that had occurred, including the hanging.

The conversation came to an end and the adventurers departed. They wanted to speak to Falibor, the town’s smith, and get his opinion on matters. But before they managed to find the dwarf, they stumbled upon a large group of humans violently dragging a family of halflings from their home.

Emma tried to bring the mob to a halt through divine intervention, but their anger and frenzy was complete. Astrid and Emrys advanced on the mob with their weapons drawn, and Emrys used his magic to enlarge the both of them until they were the size of an ogre, towering over the mob. This caught the angry mob’s attention, and in the confusion James, who had circled around the building to flank the mob.

During his flanking manoeuvre, James had noticed a small group of figures emerging from the tree line behind the houses and hastily climb up on the roof. They were well camouflaged, nimble and silent and James held up his hand in greeting. Seconds later the group started firing arrow after arrow from sleek longbows into the mob of humans.

In that confusion, James acted. He managed to extricated the halflings from their predicament. He told them to make their way towards the trees and onward to Syldarael’s cottage.

Luca fired searing bolts of fire and purple force at the sharpshooters, partially igniting the roof. Emrys magically raised the fury of the flames that Luca caused, and finally, Emma thundered a tidal wave on their position, dousing the flames and sending the sharpshooters in retreat.

The final tally was that nine people were shot down in a matter of seconds, only one of which could be saved by Emma, a young woman by the name of Tomira. Martha was held back and made to sit on the ground, among the dead, watched over by Astrid, while Strickland was called to the scene. Astrid had to step in when Luca started to harass Martha, trying to get her to take responsibility for the violence. Tomira asked to depart and was allowed to do so after a stern lecture from Emma.

Strickland arrived with two guards and started arranging for a cart to pick up the dead. while Luca has redirected his harassment from Martha to Strickland. The adventurers forced him to agree to hosting a meeting with certain notable people in town, in order to settle the differences and put an end to the violence.

The Allenham Pogrom

Previously, travelled from Egremont, into the Riverlands to Blackbridge aboard the Old Queen. The town, almost completely surrounded by woods, lay on the crossing of the Teign river and the bridge crossing it along the Silesian road. Getting settled in at The Grove, the local tavern and lodge, James was approached by Randall, the stern-faced captain of the guard who wanted to speak to him regarding the dagger he was carrying on his belt and his possible involvement in a string of murders. James, fearful of being made a scapegoat and having a strong disdain for authority, fled the scene. Eventually, a meeting was arranged on the bridge with the local magistrate, a flinty-eyed woman by the name of Loretta. It was agreed that the town sage would divine the truth behind the dagger, under the watchful eyes of the adventurers, minus James, who didn’t feel safe enough to come along.

Second Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

James walked back down the Silesian road, away from the bridge, to once again meet up with Emrys who was hiding in the woods, while Luca decided to stay behind and observe the ritual divination which was about to take place. Loretta lead the way back to the Black House escorted by captain Randall, his guards, Astrid and Emma.

The town sage turned out to be Loretta’s husband Callum, at least twenty years her senior and quite old. He performed a ritual that seemed to tax his strength considerably, involving the burning of incense and a collection of polished ivory sticks engraved with arcane runes.

Before James, the dagger belonged to a curious old alchemist by the name of Alfred Barnaby who ran an alchemy shop in Bournemouth. He was a man of questionable morals and backbone, but with a keen, opportunist mind, like that of a scorpion. Like a scorpion, he learned to utilise the sting in this dagger’s tail and started to experiment with the poisonous substance the blade could be coated with.

The blade came to Alfred in the hands of a wounded assassin named Orgamel, devoted follower of the Dark Queen Takhisis. Orgamel had fled Egremont when a planned assassination of a local miller’s daughter had gone awry and he had caught a guardsman’s blade to the belly. Crudely bandaged up, he stole a small fishing boat and travelled down river to Bournemouth, escaping the law and seeking aid, he had hoped to find it at the alchemist’s, only to die at the hands of the opportunistic quack.

Before the unsuccessful assassination, the blade was given to Orgamel by Melchior, a wicked man from deep in Eastmarsh who spent his entire life in service to the Dark Queen and had spread her dark influence all along the eastern coast of the Lyrian gulf for decades and had acquired a loyal following.

Melchior had been tasked to murder very specific people by Takhisis and had plotted for a decade, trying to find a way to do so. First, he created a following. Second, he trained and equiped his followers. And last, he would direct his followers to assassinate those the Dark Queen had marked for death. The blade was one of the weapons created to perform the murders. It is one of many.

In the decade leading up to Melchior being ready to execute Takhisis’ plan, he took his followers and penetrated deep into the Eastmarsh, seeking out the territory of Kalauranthalasis, an ancient green dragon who, in its old age, had grown so arrogant as to think it had no more need to fear or obey the Dark Queen.

When the humans finally came for Kalauranthalasis, it could no longer rely on its mistress and was quickly overwhelmed by Melchior and his followers. Melchior defeated Kalauranthalasis and subjugated it, chaining it and harvesting its body for its essential salts, fashioning the wicked daggers from its teeth, nails and poisonous fangs. They used the jewels from its hoard to decorate the blades, and used the dragon’s life force to enchant the blades with the same wickedness as the dragon that spawned them.

Somewhere in the Eastmarsh, Kalauranthalasis lies bound a slave to Melchior’s whims.

With the truth unveiled, Callum excused himself and was escorted away. Loretta stayed behind to address Astrid, Emma and Luca. It was decided that it would be for the best that the adventurers take the dagger far away from Blackbridge and that James would not be welcome in or around the town until he was ready to accept the Queen’s appointed authority.

The adventurers went back to The Grove and asked Keogh, the owner, whether they could resume their stay and they were welcomed back into the inn and found that their beds were vacant and their equipment untouched.

In the meantime, James and Emrys had sneaked back into Blackbridge in order to find a place for them to rest which gave them some protection from the elements. Normally able to rely on his talents, James found himself out of his depths a bit in such a rural environment, preferring instead the urban environments of places like Kingsport and Bournemouth, and so the best he could do was an abandoned pigsty on the edge of town with enough dry hay on the ground to allow Emrys a small measure of comfort.

Third Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

The following morning James and Emrys sneaked from the pigsty, through the woods back to the Silesian road and walked down to the bridge to wait for the others. The others woke up late and found that the options for breakfast were limited due to all the other guests having gotten up much earlier than they and picking the larders clean. The managed to eat some scraps but were delighted when Roswyn, the innkeep’s wife, was able to pack five lunches for them to take on the road.

Speaking with Keogh they learned that if they were quick, they might still catch up with Kedelon, an elven boatsman who was going up to Allenham by barge and was set to depart in the morning. Gathering all of their things, Luca, Emma and Astrid hastily made their way to the soggy flats of the harbour area, making as much haste as they could while simultaneously carrying the chest between them.

Arriving at the peer, they looked around for Kedelon and his barge and finally spotted him, already on his way, having passed by the bridge across the river, punting the barge upstream. Emma tried to call out to him, but couldn’t get his attention. She decided to sprint uphill, towards the bridge, and yelled down at him again, this time getting his attention. She asked if he had space for a few more passengers and he happily obliged, docking the barge on the bank north of the bridge.

The adventurers gathered up their things and climbed aboard and found Kedelon to be a friendly, elven boatsman on his way to Allenham together with Rickard and Willow, the couple who had been travelling in the same direction since Bournemouth. While Willow was handing out some fresh fruits to all aboard and Emma was chatting with the riverlanders, Luca informed James and Emrys of what had occurred at the Black House, and the information they had gained about the dagger.

Emma learned that Kedelon was the Allenham boatsman, working for the village magistrate a man by the name of Theo Strickland. Kedelon had travelled down to Blackbridge to pick up some goods and packages, including some cloth, silks and dyes that were to be used to create the clothing for the wedding feast of his sister’s.

The travel upriver was pleasant and serene with the forest on either bank remaining dense and verdant. Birds could be heard everywhere, only occasionally drowned out by the sound of a rutting moose bull. Kedelon and Astrid took turns taking the large punting poles to push the boat upstream.

Occasionally, Kedelon would stop at small river-side villages to drop off packages he picked up from Blackbridge. It was clear he was a common and welcome sight to most people along the river.

Emrys mostly kept to himself, his mood being tempered by the unnatural appearance he now bore. His silvery hair tucked underneath his hood and his radiant eyes hidden behind his blindfold. James kept to himself, unwilling to engage with the Riverlanders on a personal level.

In the afternoon the large swooping figure of a young wyvern flew overhead, its leathery wings, razor sharp claws and serpentine tail standing in stark contrast to the clear blue sky. To some this was the source of some fright, to others it was a symbol that they were travelling further away from civilisation.

At the end of the day, a small cove in the river was reached, with a shallow beach, protected from the current by two large, round boulders. A grassy clearing with access to the cove, protected by the densely leafed branches of two ash trees was to be their camp site for the night. A semi-permanent, stone fire pit stood in the middle of the small clearing and a supply of firewood could be found in the hollow of one of the ash trees. This spot was clearly used often by the travellers of the Riverlands.

While Willow and Kedelon prepared a fire and started making some stew, Rickard and James went into the woods to find fresh fire wood to replace the wood they would use during the night.

Emma approached Emrys and asked him if he would care to take a swim with her. She wanted to try seeing whether or not she could somehow dispel the magical effect that had gotten hold of him. Initially reluctant, he decided that a swim would do him well after the warm day and accompanied Emma. First they swam, relatively secluded, and then Emma cleansed Emrys in a ritual, restoring his visage to what it was before the fight with the Pesta in the basement of Alfred Barnaby’s alchemy shoppe.

Immediately after restoring Emrys back to his old appearance, his cheerful personality returned as well and while the food was being prepared he began strumming his lute. Emma, satisfied with the minor miracle she managed to perform with Sedna’s help, decided to take up Muirgheal and use it to go spear fishing in the river. Guided by Muirgheal, she speared a huge river trout, which was cleaned roasted and added to the stew for supper.

Eventually, a rotating set of guards were set up for the night and everyone bedded down. James, ever the contrarian, decided to sleep in the barge, looking up at the stars. Just before he fell asleep, he noticed that the Silvermoon was at low sanction, while the Darkmoon was at its fullest, a sign of foreboding.

Fourth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

The night went by without any disturbance, everyone who was assigned to stand guard did so without complaint. Early in the morning the remainders of the fish was served up and the stew was eaten and the camp site was once again brought to its proper state. Trash was discarded, the fire pit was tidied and the fire wood was stacked in the ash tree’s hollow to dry.

The day on the river went by quietly, listening to the sounds of the forest and the river and only occasionally being disturbed by manoeuvres having to be made to prevent the barge from hitting rocks in the river. Kedelon explained that the heat of summer was both a blessing and a curse for travelling upriver; it meant the current wasn’t as strong, making punting the barge upriver easier, but it also meant that the water level was low, making navigating the rocks a lot harder.

Midway through the morning the barge was brought to a halt as a large brown bear was standing in the middle of the river, fishing for river trout. Eventually the bear lost interest in the fish after having pawed several fish from the stream and devoured them, and went on his merry way.

It was in the early afternoon that the river began to bend off to the east ever so slightly and Kedelon announced that their arrival at Allenham was imminent. Everyone got ready once a small pier was spotted on the western bank slightly upstream and within minutes everyone was standing along a small path leading along the river. While docking, James had noticed that some smoke was rising above the trees to the north. It struck him as a different type of smoke, darker and more acrid, than normal hearth fires.

Willow and Rickard bid the others farewell, as they travelled south along the path while Kedelon and the adventurers chose to head north, towards Allenham. Soon the forest started to thin out and pretty soon a large, gnarled tree with bare branches could be seen on the bank of the river. Several dead bodies were hanging from ropes attached to different branches. Getting closer to the tree, the adventurers identified that all of the bodies belonged to non-humans, mostly elves. It became clear that racial tension had exploded in Allenham.

Kedelon identified the bodies and he became anxious to make it to his family’s cottage to make sure they were okay. Emrys and James, having elven blood, thought it best not to head into town but follow Kedelon to his family’s cottage in the woods on the edge of town. Astrid, Emma and Luca would go into town and see if they could find a place to purchase a beast of burden for their onward journey.

When Astrid, Emma and Luca walked into town they passed by several vandalised homes, some of them burnt to the ground with nothing left standing but the charred skeleton. They walked up to what passed for the rural town square, finding a large group of humans standing and milling about opposite of the largest building in town, which was guarded by two people which looked to be part of the town guard.

There was an amount of posturing from the group loitering which was making the town guard very nervous. When the adventurers asked the guards to see the magistrate, they seemed not at all to care to protect the magistrate and let the adventurers into the building after Luca pretended to be an envoy from the court.

In the meantime, Kedelon, Emrys and James had circled through the woods and found a colourful cabin surrounded by a beautiful, fragrant herb garden. Much to Kedelon’s relief, they found his mother Syldarael and sister Sylvael safely inside, together with a halfling friend of the family.

Syldarael explained that the Allen family, whose daughter Martha was once engaged to be married to Theo Strickland, the magistrate. The engagement was called off when it was revealed that the Strickland family had promised Theo in matrimony to a woman living in Bournemouth. The Allen family, and especially Martha, were disappointed but understood the situation. When, years later, Strickland got engaged to Sylvael, the Allen family felt fleeced.

An underlying animosity towards Syldarael and her family made the situation worse. Syldarael was the town herbalist, healer and midwife. She delivered Martha many years ago but unfortunately Martha’s mother, Anna, passed away from complications during birth. Herman, Martha’s father, head of the Allen family, never forgave Syldarael for losing his wife and held her personally responsible. For years he has been poisoning people against Syldarael, and by extension, against her daughter Sylvael, especially since she is training to become a healer too.

A few days prior to the adventurers arriving in Allenham, two of Martha’s cousins, Justan and Brandon, were sentenced to hang by the magistrate for the crime of destroying the smithy run by Falibor, a dwarven blacksmith who is of great strategic importance to Allenham and its surroundings. The two cousins had been in their cups one night and decided to retaliate against Falibor for firing Justan from his apprenticeship because of poor craftmanship. Thinking they were not going to be punished too harshly, the two boys had proudly admitted their crimes and quickly found themselves with a noose around their necks. This was the spark that lit the fire of racial tension.

Emrys and James spoke with Syldarael about the different ways in which the situation could be resolved. When the topic of breaking off the engagement came up, Sylvael spoke out against it. James harshly told her to shut up and in turn got rebuked by Syldarael.

To make matters worse, Procyon commandos had heard of the problems in the Riverlands and had sent a group into the area. Ostensibly to rescue non-humans from oppression, but Syldarael understood them to fan the flames of hatred. They were lead by an elf by the name of Cendelius, a sharpshooter who used to fight for the Daerlan empire against the Lyrians on the Plains of Strife before the last peace treaty was signed and he and his brigade were traded to the Lyrian empire for execution as part of the treaty. He and several others survived the massacre and became deeply embittered against both the Daerlan empire as well as the Lyrian kingdom. They were rescued by the Procyon and immediately swore allegiance to their cause.

Emrys drew Toruviel from its elaborate scabbard and seemed for a moment to commune with it. He said he was determined to protect Syldarael and her family from any harm that may befall them at the hands of the bigoted people of Allenham. Syldarael refused to have drawn weapons in her house and asked Emrys to depart. He did so and took position in front of her cabin. James was worried that Toruviel’s undue influence on Emrys and departed for the town when he saw that reasoning with Emrys seemed impossible.

Eventually James arrived at the magistrate’s house and was let inside by the guards to find Astrid, Emma and Luca talking to the magistrate. They went over all the key people involved in the conflict, their desires, their grievances and their objections. They found the magistrate was unwilling to relinquish his position in the town and eventually thought it would be best to convene a meeting between the various factions to see if fences could be mended and bridges could be restored.

Egremont to Blackbridge

Previously, the adventurers made their way from Bournemouth to Egremont on The Old Queen, a caravel carrying several passengers. Halfway through the trip a strange fog blanketed the entire river, slowing the caravel down to a crawl. The ship was attacked by several muck dwellers. Finally, another creature, stealthily moving through the fog appeared and tried to take Muirgheal away. The adventurers managed to defeat the creatures and discover that upstream, a woman in a bright blue cloak was observing the attack from a small boat. With the attack a failure, the woman departed.

Second Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

The Old Queen slowly sails up the river, slowly winding around the low sloping hills of the Bourne valley while the wind soothes your scrapes and bruises. The afternoon sun glitters off the surface of the water as the first towers of a proud castle looms into view over the crest of an upcoming hill. As the caravel inches forward the rest of the castle, settled on a hill on the southern bank of the river, comes into view. It has high walls which obscure much of the castle. Two round towers, part of the castle’s wall, are standing guard on the river. Part of an impressive bridge juts out between them high above the river. It looks like it was destroyed long ago and now serves as a vantage point to survey the river.

Across the river a broken structure made of similar stones, commemorating where the castle once connected to the northern bank. Ferries now go up and down between the embankments, shipping people, cattle and goods across. An old, cobbled road still departs from the broken bridge, heading north for several hours to meet up with the Silesian road.

Over the last couple of centuries several thousand homes have nestled themselves in the shadows of the castle walls, expanding outward from the castle’s epicentre. Rows of water mills line the south bank of the river, directly west of the castle hill. White sails of tall windmills can be seen dotting the hinterland to the south. To the east of the castle hill a modest harbour allows for the Old Queen to dock.

For those of you who have travelled the countryside, the city of Egremont is a fair sized city, for those of you who only really know Kingsport and perhaps Bournemouth, Egremont looks like a quaint village.

Late in the afternoon, Egremont came into view. A castle sat proudly on the southern river bank, with several thousand homes spreading out into the hinterland from the castle’s epicentre. The caravel was docked at a modest harbour and captain Lorne began to arrange for the empty barrels he had been carrying for the Egremont coopers to be unloaded by dock workers. In the meantime, Lady Kathleen, her children, and her sworn sword Dame Idonia disembarked.

There was some confusion about how long the caravel would stay in port, but once it became clear that it would depart for Blackbridge within two hours, several of the adventurers decided to go into Egremont and find a place to eat. Ridley asked permission for her to join the adventurers, which captain Lorne granted.

Emrys remembered a tavern by the name of The Broken Bridge, where people were sitting outside in the late afternoon sun. Food was ordered and Luca used his magic to chill the cups of their ale. Ridley, who also had gotten a mug of ale, marvelled at the trick and enjoyed the cool drink. Meanwhile, Emrys was observing the conversations of the people around them and concluded that there had been a string of seemingly random killings in Egremont which had the otherwise cheerful people worried.

Eventually the adventurers came back to the harbour and found that a halfling merchant by the name of Travik had come aboard, together with loads of produce (e.g. potatoes, onions, leeks) which he was planning on selling in Blackbridge. Besides Travik, a trio of barbers had come aboard in order to travel upriver, as well as an exotic woman of striking beauty.

The Old Queen quickly went underway once everyone was back on board and it began to travel up the river Teign. The landscape changed from the fair fields of Fairfields, into the wooded area of the Riverlands. Both banks of the river became heavily forested.

During the trip, the adventurers had an opportunity to talk to some of the other passengers. Travik turned out to know about Pinefall because he had met Lord Destan when he travelled upriver several rides previous. When asked whether he had been to Pinefall, he denied, mostly due to the brewing trouble with a brigand group by the name of the Procyon.

Luca and Emrys took the opportunity to talk to the exotic woman, who was known as mistress Esmeralda d’Ortega, a Arroyan abjurer and representative of the Circle of Mages in Kingsport. Emrys explained that the adventurers had met another abjurer from the circle when the Lyrian queen had invited Emma to court in order to bless a well. She claimed that it was likely Dr. Arkenward, the royal abjurer. The conversation meandered a bit, but the adventurers managed to learn that Esmeralda was on her way to Blackbridge in order to take the Silesian road to Kingsport from there. She was to summon her mount there, which greatly interested Luca and mildly interested Emrys. She promised to show them how to do so once they arrived.

As the Old Queen sails further north up the Teign tributary the landscapes changes considerably from the fair fields of Fairfields. The golden fields of wheat make way for the more forested hills of the Riverlands. Both banks of the river become densely wooded and the occasional deer and fawn can be seen drinking at the water’s edge from time to time. Birds can be heard to chirp, coo and warble, echoing across the river valley.

The setting sun of the late hour of the day causes the wind to pick up, which provides some much needed relief from the heat. Ridley climbs down from the mast and goes to the rear deck to stand by captain Lorne and draw one of his thick arms around her, nestling into the crook of his arm. Roddy starts rubbing the ache in one of his shoulders, while Neiman keeps an eye out over the river from the front deck.

Occasional signs of logging can be seen along the river. In wide coves the long stems of oak and ash trees float, patiently waiting for barges to take them down stream to be worked in the saw mills at Egremont.

Finally, a large stone bridge comes into view, arching over the river where the Silesian road cuts through the forest. While impressive, the bridge is too low for the caravel to pass underneath. This is as far as the Old Queen will be able to take you.

On the eastern bank of the river, directly south of the bridge, the forest opens up to reveal the town of Blackbridge. Unwalled, consisting of perhaps a thousand wooden homes, all nestled close together on the soggy flats of the east bank, the town seems well camouflaged.

Half a dozen small, wooden piers jut out onto the river. They are barely large enough to dock a boat the size of the Old Queen, but captain Lorne expertly manoeuvres the caravel towards the dock, ordering the sails to be lowered. The boat is quickly tied to the dock and the dock hands start unloading the cargo unto the pier. Several ox-driven carts stand in the soggy, black mulch near the pier, ready to carry the goods onward.

The town seems to have taken its name from the bridge and the dark soil it connects on either side.

Once The Old Queen was docked on the small pier of Blackbridge the goods were unloaded onto carts under Travik’s watchful eye. Rickard and Willow of Allenham disembarked and walked into town to find lodgings. Emma and Astrid did the same while carrying the chest of valuables. James decided to join them while Emrys and Luca left to go to the bridge together with Esmeralda to watch her perform her summoning ritual. But not before Luca conjured up a little crystal flower for Ridley as a parting gift, something she was delighted by.

Esmeralda, Emrys and Luca found a secluded spot in the woods just off the Silesian road for her to perform her ritual. Surprisingly, it didn’t take her much effort to draw a swirling fog from all directions, which formed into the shape of a large stallion. Over the course of several minutes the shape started to gain more and more detail, until it spontaneously coalesced into a real, live chestnut stallion. Esmeralda explained that the stallion was a paragon she summoned from the Feywilde.

When Esmeralda bid her farewell and departed west down the Silesian road, Emrys and Luca went back to the dock and into town to find The Grove, the only inn to be found in Blackbridge. Once there, they had found that the others had already arranged for lodgings in a common room and some delicious food. The lodgings were simple and spartan, but the food was luxurious.

During dinner the adventurers learned that a contingent of crownsguard and knights had set off from the capital to escort an emissary to parlay with Lord Mirek Radowan, whose house had stood in open rebellion to the throne ever since the crown’s refusal to meet house Radowan’s demands for more forces to protect the eastern border.

There was little entertainment in the small, forest town, and so people decided to head to the common room in order to get some rest. Luca and Astrid remained behind in the main room, where Luca read and Astrid drank. They noticed a crownsguard come into The Grove and speak to Keogh and his wife Roswyn, the proprietors of the inn. After speaking to one another in hushed tones he walked over to the common room to find James.

The conversation was short, but spiralled out of control quickly. The crownsguard was captain Randall of the Blackbridge guard and wanted to know more about the dagger that James was carrying, claiming that similar weapons had been used in the assassinations of random people in Blackbridge. James explained that he had received the dagger as payment for services rendered by a man named Barnaby, operating an alchemy shop in Bournemouth.

James began to get annoyed when captain Randall insisted that James reveal his right shoulder, seemingly looking for a mark, or a tattoo which he found significant. When James revealed no such tattoo he insisted that James disarm and accompany him to The Black House. James refused. Captain Randall repeated his command and James refused again, insulting the captain’s intelligence on top of it. Clearly not a man used to having his orders refused he decided to take a more drastic approach in order to try and bring James to heel.

Luca and Astrid, who could hear the raised voices from the main room, came to investigate what the ruckus was about, while Emma tried to stay out of the conflict. Emrys on the other hand was trying to calm the situation by trying to get the captain to engage in conversation. The captain refused to do so and kept ordering James to disarm, which James refused to do. Eventually, James tried to flee the scene, afraid that the captain would attack him. Both Luca and Emrys started slinging spells at the captain, so when the captain pursued James who had run out of the inn, they decided they had probably overstayed their welcome too. Emma and Astrid stayed behind.

James lead the captain, who was wearing heavy armour and had no way of catching up with the fleet-footed rogue, on a wild goose chase through the town, eventually losing him and doubling back. He met up with Emrys and Luca who had tried to head towards the river through the forest. They decided to rest and come up with a plan.

Emrys, who was still afflicted by the strange, radiant glow coming from his eyes, decided that now that it was getting darker outside, he shouldn’t be trying to sneak around town, and so wanted to stay behind. James and Luca snuck back into town. They decided to head to The Black House to see if any search efforts were being organised and to figure out what had happened to Emma and Astrid, after James had discovered that they were no longer at The Grove.

Sneaking to the back of The Black House, they found a room with a closed window in which Astrid and Emma were in conversation with captain Randall and an known elderly woman. From where they were sitting they could only hear the woman’s side of the story, and it seemed that the woman was eager to talk to the fugitives about the weapon. James and Luca decided to knock on the front door of The Black House. The door was opened by a young guard who immediately recognised the fugitives and yelled for the captain. Before the captain could appear, James issued a demand to parlay at the bridge in one hour, before dashing off. Luca had to trouble keeping up with James but managed to get away.

Returning to Emrys they had explained what had happened and the three of them decided to rendez-vous at the bridge an hour later. There they found Emma, Astrid, the elderly woman, the captain and several guards. Emma and the elderly woman stepped forward and approached James.

When the elderly woman, who clearly spoke with authority, suggested that it was unwise to disobey the captain’s commands, James immediately objected, telling her not to start laying down the law. She kindly reminded him that she was, in fact, the law in Blackbridge, at which point he once again refused to accept the situation and decided to walk off. Luca, who had stayed back said that this wasn’t going to resolve anything. James gave Luca the dagger and let him deal with matters instead, believing that the authorities were looking to frame him for the murders which had plagued the small town.

Luca parlayed with the elderly woman, agreeing to hand over the dagger for divination by the town sage. If that would exonerate James, she agreed that he would be free to go, but James’ refusal to recognise the authority of the town guard meant that he was no longer welcome in Blackbridge. Luca wanted to be present when the sage performed his divination ritual, to make sure that the sage would speak the truth. And so a deal was struck.

The Old Queen

Previously, the adventurers wrapped up all the loose ends in Bournemouth. They engaged Lady Ulrikke von Rosenberg in conversation about her research into strange humanoid creatures stalking the countryside of the Daerlan empire. They could push the research of the frustrated margravine into a useful direction and potentially making a new ally.

The adventurers also spent some time preparing for their upcoming trip by purchasing supplies for their trek towards Pinefall in the foothills of the Silverpines. This included a visit to Alfred Barnaby’s shop to see about some healing elixirs. They found the scatterbrained man unable to reach his supplies due to a ghostly apparition having invaded his basement laboratory. The adventurers went down and confronted the apparition, which turned out to be a pesta, a harbinger of plagues and blights, which they managed to defeat, but not without a stiff fight. One in which Emrys was strangely transformed into a radiant, almost celestial version of himself!

Second Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

The adventurers readied themselves to depart from the River Stone, heading out to the harbour in order to board a boat taking them upstream towards Egremont with the final stop being Blackbridge. Falka met them outside the inn and walked them to the harbour, bidding them a safe journey.

The ship Astrid had arranged passage on was an eighty foot, two-masted caravel, with triangle, cream-coloured sails. Astrid and Emma, who had carried the company’s chest of riches from the inn to the harbour carried it up the gangplank, at the top of which they were met by two of the crew; Neiman, a blonde-haired man with an even tan and an easy smile, and Ridley a young girl who was easily mistaken for a boy, with a cleft lip and a speech impediment. After Astrid asked permission to embark they were invited aboard with a very warm welcome.

The adventurers settled themselves on the forward deck, where Emrys, who was still wearing a heavy hood and a thick blindfold to hide the strange malady which was afflicting him, sat down with all of their belongings and started strumming his lute, playing a melancholic melody.

Everyone got a quick primer of the rules aboard the ship; the rear deck was off-limits, but the passengers were invited to walk around the main and forward decks. The passengers were also allowed to take comfort in the forward hull if they wanted to, but Astrid warned that it might cause some sea sickness if the weather turned, which prompted Luca to take his place in the middle of the main deck, determined not to fall ill.

James asked whether he would be allowed to climb the main mast and Neiman differed authority to Ridley, who looked James up and down and nodded her approval. James took an interest in the young girl and asked her to show him how to climb the mast, which she happily did. She showed herself to a dexterous and excellent climber.

When Neiman found out that Emma was a priestess of Sedna he insisted on introducing her to the captain on the rear deck. He turned out to be an old, broad shouldered, one eyed man, whose old facial scars read like a map of the world. Neiman invited Emma to bless the ship, the crew and their voyage, which she reluctantly did.

The last crew member was Roddy, a plain-faced, dark haired man who didn’t possess the same charisma or willingness to converse as his crew-mate Neiman.

Several other passengers were aboard the ship; a young lady of noble birth, travelling with her infant daughter and a young, troublesome lordling by the name of Simon. They were accompanied by a middle-aged knight by the name of Dame Idonia, whose half-plate armour and shield were gilded in vermilion, showing her to be of the Order of the Shield.

The last two passengers were a young couple; Rickard of Allenham and his young wife Willow, both commoners on their way from Bournemouth where Rickard studied botany at the academy, to Allenham where they made their home.

Captain Lorne ordered the two bosuns, Roddy and Neiman, to raise the sails while Ridley untied the ropes from the pier. Pretty soon the sails caught wind and the boat started to inch forward. Expertly the captain steered the boat onto open water before turning back towards the city and angling to go up-river along the southern fork of the river, getting a great view of the southern end of Ioun’s Isle and eventually sailing past the Landsdown auction house, where the adventurers saw the two regular guards stand at attention, boiling in the early morning sunlight. Eventually the ship left Bournemouth behind as it slowly zig-zagged upriver.

Rickard and Willow came up to Luca, attracted by the tome he was reading and tried to make small talk with him. Rickard introduced himself and his wife and explained that he was a student at the faculty of natural philosophy. He was delighted to hear Luca’s lie about being a mage studying at the Circle of Mages in Kingsport. The conversation quickly died out and Rickard excused himself and his wife and they went to introduce themselves to the noble lady and her guard.

In the meantime, lord Simon had taken to running around the deck, kicking over buckets, uncoiling ropes and – his favourite – hanging off the side of the railing so far that he could fall overboard at any moment.

Emma, who had decided to use the several hours to Egremont to meditate and further attune herself to Muirgheal, found herself increasingly frustrated by the young lordling and used a sliver of Sedna’s power to project her voice in an impressive way and catch the lordling’s attention. As soon as she did, she saw that she had frightened him significantly, and saw that Dame Idonia was advancing on her quickly. She took a knee in front of the young lord and kindly implored him to obey his lady-mother, who had been commanding him to behave ever since embarking onto the Old Queen.

That seemed to calm the young lord down for a little while, giving Emma some time to focus on Muirgheal. Unfortunately, she felt like the intelligence inside the weapon was at a constant distance from her and she wasn’t able to reach it.

The beautiful Fairfields countryside rolled by, showing off the incredible wheat fields and grazing pastures of the Bourne valley. The different lands and pastures partitioned off from one another by ancient, moss-covered, dry brick walls, like a fertile mosaic.

Luca had grown dissatisfied with being in the hot sun and had decided to take refuge inside the forward hull, confident that he would be able to stomach the motion of the ship without having an eye on the horizon. Inside, he started experimenting with some of the simple cantrips and the effect that lyrium crystals would have on them. He quickly concluded that lyrium was able to act as an arcane focus as well as a universal spell component, which was valuable knowledge to have gained from such short experimentation.

James was the first to notice a strange bank of fog coming up along the river. The crew members picked up on it swiftly and the captain ordered the sails to be lowered so that the ship would slow down. While the bosuns were taking down the sails, Ridley climbed out onto the prow to keep an eye on any possible rocks, banks or debris.

When the ship was completely enveloped in mist, a cry could be heard out followed rapidly by a splash. Little lord Simon had fallen overboard and was in need of rescue. At the same time, malicious humanoid creatures climbed aboard the ship and attacked the crew and passengers.

Luca knew them to be drowners, sometimes called muck-dwellers, a hold-over from the last Conjunction of Planes. They were a nuisance in small numbers, only troubling lone fishermen, but they were climbing up the side of the ship in numbers larger than to just be a nuisance.

Emma didn’t hesitate, took Muirgheal in hand and jumped overboard to rescue lord Simon from the drowners who were pulling him further into the depths with every second. In the meantime, the rest engaged the drowners swarming the ship.

Emma valiantly fought off the drowners and almost managed to free lord Simon from their clutches, but the underwater surroundings were new terrain for her to do battle in, despite being greatly aided by Muirgheal. Eventually she succumbed to her wounds just as the last of the drowners on the ship were defeated. Astrid came to the rescue and carried lord Simon to the ship and went back for Emma and Muirgheal.

In the meantime, a new creature had appeared, this one a master of evasion using illusions and invisibility to move through the fog. Its patterns across the ship suggested that it was trying to find something, eventually settling on Muirgheal as it was being assaulted on all sides by the passengers and crew. During this fight, Luca took a chance and cast one of his eldritch spells using a lyrium crystal as an arcane focus and saw the effects of the spell enhanced significantly!

As it tried to escape overboard, James, who had had doggedly been pursuing the strange creature, launched an arrow into it and saw the creature’s body bob to the surface of the water. He dove into the clear waters and caught up with Muirgheal before it reached the bottom.

When he resurfaced he noticed that with the death of the second creature, the fog was retreating, revealing a small rowing boat a little further upstream. Standing on the boat was what appeared to be a young woman wearing a bright blue, hooded cloak. Once she saw James had retrieved Muirgheal she turned around in the boat and it started to move away, further upstream and out of sight.

When Emma was resuscitated and everyone had recovered somewhat from their wounds, the young noble woman came to thank the company for the efforts of saving young lord Simon. She pledged that they would always be welcome at house Tolliver, the family to which she belonged.

With the situation back under control and the fog retreated, the ship went back underway and soon, Egremont came into view.

Alfred Barnaby’s Pest Problem

Previously, the adventurers split their time rather evenly between the library of the Bournemouth academy and the Landsdowne auction house. The library allowed them to find out more information regarding the Age of Fear, certain legends and about the probably destination of Lord Destan’s trip. The auction house was the scene for an auction where a Lyrium crystal pendant was being competed over by two groups of elder races, both intent on buying the rare crystal. In the end the dwarves walked away with the crystal, appearing to have the deeper pockets.

First Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

While Emrys was sleeping off his hangover from his visit to the Golden Cockatrice from the night before, and Astrid took the horses and carts to be sold before their voyage the next day, and James spent the morning in training to the point of gaining some level of clarity on what happened to him inside the Sheridan mansion that night where he was separated from the group, Luca and Emma returned to the library of Bournemouth academy to finish up some loose ends to their research.

Emma researched the story of admiral Karadin, gaining some insight in the history behind the song that Muirgheal had sang to her right after she had bonded herself to it. While an interesting story, Emma had hoped for a better understanding of what the trident was trying to convey to her, or even if it was trying to convey anything to her at all.

During this time Luca was frustrated in his efforts to find out more information about lyrium crystals. After hours of research yielded nothing of value, Luca concluded that the library may have been sanitised of information regarding the rare crystals and that a different source would like be required to learn how to make use of the crystals. He decided to take a walk around the library to clear his head.

When Luca came upon the luxurious reading room in which Lady Ulrikke was performing her own studies. Luca had noticed that she, too, had been frustrated in her attempts and he found her staring blankly out of the window while her guards had made themselves scarce. After a brief conversation, she revealed that she had been researching the sightings of skaven, khazra and minotaurs in the south, west and north of the Daerlan empire, respectively.

Emma was asked to join the conversation with Lady Ulrikke and introductions were made. Lady Ulrikke shared sketches of the beastmen she was researching. The skaven were identical to the ones the adventurers had encountered at Lynnecombe. The khazra were half goat half man and similarly savage and tribal, like the skaven. The minotaurs, however, seemed disciplined, martial, well armed and armoured.

Lady Ulrikke shared that some within the empire thought the beastmen to be set loose upon the empire by their rivals, Lyria and Hellmark. She was also keen to hear details about our adventurers’ encounter with the skaven in Lynnecombe and she was surprised to hear that the beastmen had been found in the heartland of the Lyrian kingdom. She gladly accepted Emma’s advice to seek out the curious leather armour at the Landsdowne auction house which was made of the same strange leather that the skaven wore.

The last thing that Luca and Emma agreed upon with Lady Ulrikke was that they could use Falka as a go-between, should either one of them manage to uncover more valuable information regarding the beastmen, while Emma implored the young noble woman to use her influence and standing to find a way to get the empire to work together with the Lyrian kingdom in the defence of what she believed was imminent; a new Age of Fear.

Falka delivered her treatise on the Age of Fear to Luca and she was paid her fee. Two items of curiosity were described therein that went beyond what was commonly known; namely the name and description of Aureus the Golden One, a very long lived saint of Paladine who was one of the founding members of the Senhadrim, as well as the dichotomy between rural and urban populations in Lyria and their different views on the un- and supernatural. This was caused by the devastating decline in the human population in Lyria. Humanity only saved themselves from extinction by banding together and hiding behind the thick walls of ancient fortresses.

While Luca and Emma were at the academy and Emrys was recovering from his  hangover, James and Astrid had found a seedy, waterfront bar where they – well, mostly Astrid – found some entertainment by getting into a fist fight with five lewd men. The fight was eventually broken up by the Bournemouth city guard, who promptly arrested the men. Astrid lost a tooth and had gotten some scratches, but she seemed to have enjoyed herself tremendously. James was intent on finding a high quality house of delight, but was disappointed to hear that there were no such places around. They decided to head back to the River Stone.

The adventurers came together at the River Stone and discussed what to do with the remainder of their time. Astrid had booked passage to Blackbridge by way of Egremont for the following morning and everyone had felt that their time in Bournemouth had come to an end. A decision was made to shop for some supplies that would be useful on the road to Pinefall, and one last stop would be made at Alfred Barnaby’s Concoctions & Decoctions to see about the healing potions.

Arriving at the curious alchemy shop they found that the door was locked. Right as they were about to depart, Alfred appeared to peer at them through the window and opened the door. He seemed scatterbrained, even for him, but let them into the shop. He was sorry to inform him that he didn’t have access to his potions. He seemed troubled and with some prodding the adventurers managed to get him to explain what was bothering him.

It seemed that his basement laboratory, where he kept his stock of potions, was curiously haunted by a strange spirit of an older lady. A deal was made that he would part with five healing potions, one for each of the adventurers, if they could take care of the spirit, that would be one thousand gold crowns worth of materials. The adventurers agreed and descended through a trapdoor into the basement below.

The basement was made up of two adjacent rooms. The first was mostly used for storage while the second seemed like a well-stocked laboratory. Shelves lined with books, tables filled with beakers, cups and tubes, and many curious items and cauldrons. Along one of the bookshelves the glowing apparition of an elderly lady could be seen hovering. She seemed not to take notice of the adventurers.

Emma could hear the muffled sounds of water running somewhere in the distance, and noticed that one of the walls of the second room seemed to have been recently bricked up. The brickwork was rather shoddily done and it gave Emma an idea. She asked Emrys to take out Toruviel and use it to cast a blast of wind against the wall. Emrys reluctantly shuffled forward until he was within range of the wall, all the while keeping his eye on apparition who still seemed to ignore the adventurers.

Emrys used Toruviel and the shoddy brickwork caved in to reveal that the room originally was much larger and that behind the wall lay the corpse of the old woman, surrounded by flies and rats which scurried away. Also, there was a grate which lead to the Bournemouth sewers.

The moment the corpse of the lady came into view, she screamed “Nooooooooooo!” and flew at Emrys, passing right through him, taking his breath away and casting icy frost all over his body, causing him a great deal of pain. At that point everyone went into action. Emrys retreated as Astrid and James engaged the apparition while Luca went for the body, believing that he should burn the body in order for the apparition to disappear.

Casting flames onto the body while James and Astrid fought the apparition, Luca ignited the body and Emrys fanned the flames, but it didn’t seem to make a difference. In the meantime the apparition was proving very difficult to defeat and it vomited a noxious stream of vapour towards Luca in retaliation for setting fire to her corpse.

Emma took Muirgheal and used it to the stab the apparition with great success. The apparition then revealed itself to be more than just a normal ghost as it turned from the old woman into a hideous pesta, a foul undead creature who brought with it plagues, blights and diseases.

Noxious fumes, disease and an unnatural hardiness, it took every once that the adventurers had to offer to defeat the pesta. A bizarre turn of events turned Emrys’ hair silvery white and his eyes radiating with an almost celestial light. This seemed to startle him as much as everyone around him.

Near the end, Luca unleashed scorching jets of fire in an attempt to best the undead creature, but instead igniting the built up noxious fumes, which horribly burnt both himself as well as James and Emma. Luckily, Emrys and Astrid managed to defeat the creature and use the ample stores of healing potions to revive the others.

Once Emma was conscious again she used the healing powers of Sedna to heal most of the wounds suffered at the hands of the pesta. James searched the room and found a cache of healing potions of different kinds, a potion of fire breathing, and a set of curious boots with a beautiful boots, which Emrys, with a little help from Toruviel, instantly recognised as Boots of Elvenkind.

Emma still felt incredibly ill and so it was decided to leave the basement and confront Alfred. He seemed relieved that the adventurers managed to defeat the pesta but was tight lipped about the body behind the false wall or about how it got there. Fearful that the adventurers would turn him into the Bournemouth guard, he offered a magical dagger as payment for their services after the adventurers said that the cache of potions had been lost in the fight. He was encouraged to tread very carefully, knowing that the adventurers would be keeping an eye on him.

Emrys and Luca decided to return to the river stone. Emrys donned a hood and blindfold in order to conceal the strange change he had undergone while fighting the pesta. At the same time, Emma wanted to visit the river Bourne outside of the city in order to perform a cleansing ritual in order to heal herself from the disease that the pesta had inflicted upon her. She was accompanied by Astrid and James. The returned to the River Stone in the early evening.

The adventurers decided to eat their dinner in their room together. Mostly so that they could have some privacy and keep the strange appearance of Emrys a secret. Luca decided to run one last errand and purchase two pearls that would allow him to identify any magical items that they might find while on their path, while also looking into the properties behind the dagger that James had found in the laboratory.

The dagger turned out to be a Dagger of Venom, which spawned a conversation about the morality of using such an item. It was decided that nobody had any deep moral objections against the use of the dagger. At least none that they openly shared.