Category: Conjunction of Planes

Of Orcs and Men, Jail Break!

Previously, upon returning to the Sheridan estate from the ancient catacombs, the adventurers and the companions they picked up in those mysterious depths — the Lyrian knights, Bartosz and Brandomiir — were hailed as heroes, while there was a lot of consternation at the arrival of the four Kaedwyni orcs, who were prompty given “boarding” in the stables and two armed guards making sure they did not leave their “accommodations.” Meanwhile, a celebratory feast was arranged and the adventurers were asked to take up another quest; finding the Sheridan middle brother Destan and returning him home to Lynnecombe. All the while, the adventurers grew fearful for the fate of the Kaedwyni orcs.

The adventurers had just concluded their negotiations with Lord Jonathan for the task of retrieving his younger brother, having been promised a staggering one thousand gold crowns each, a cart and two horses for their journey and another one thousand gold crowns for expenses. It was clear that the Sheridans would not spare anything to get Lord Destan home safely.

Sixth Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

When the negotiations were concluded, Emma requested permission to perform a ritual of confirmation for Bartosz, to acknowledge the ordeal he has gone through and to confirm his new standing as a local hero, in front of his community and the gods. Lord Jonathan was indifferent to the idea at best, but Ser Benten supported Emma in her initiative.

Later, in light of their coming effort to free the orcs from their imprisonment, it was decided to make sure that the orcs had some arms to defend themselves with on their long journey back to Kaedwyn. While Luca wanted to raid the armoury, Emma objected to that claiming that it would be a gross breach of the laws of hospitality which were extended to them. At most, she would be willing to part with her own arms and gear. Astrid quickly offered two hand axes and her great sword, the latter was deemed too hard to sneak into the stables. Emrys offered a dagger and Luca rolled up the weapons in a blanket and put them aside for when the time was right.

Luca suggested retiring to the chamber he shared with Emrys in the servant’s building and spend some time analysing the magical artifacts they had retrieved from the catacombs using a ritual he had learned from the book he always carried around with him. He would hopefully learn more about the weapons, their history and their magical properties. And more importantly, learn whether they would be dangerous in the hands of the party. Luca approached Lord Marcus with his plan, who nonchalantly parted with the twin swords he had claimed as his own.

Luca used a pestle and mortar to crush to dust the pearl he had received from Benten earlier. He mixed it with wine and created a thick paste with which he drew an arcane circle filled with infernal symbols. He sat inside and took Lord Marcus’ swords in his lap and divined their origin. One by one he did this with each of the weapons, ending with Emma’s trident. What Luca learned surprised him; the history, the exact nature and potential of the weapons remained unclear.

What was clear was that the twin swords were supposed to be wielded by one person and lost their enchantment when wielded separately. They — no, it — was called Gladia. It required bonding between weapon and wielder and once such a bond was created would the features of the weapon become clear to its user. It was also clear that through this special bond, the weapon would grow in power as its wielder would gain experience and power.

Toruviel was the name of the elven sword that Emrys had laid claim to. The magic surrounding the blade was old and ancient even for elven standards, and was almost solely comprised of transmutation magic. The difference with this weapon’s bond was that it would be a bond for life, unlike that of the other weapons. The bond could only be lifted if the weapon would be destroyed or if the wielder perished.

When Emma was still a little hesitant to hand her trident over to Luca, he decided to inspect his own staff instead. Blackstar it was named, and he found that it greatly boosted his abilities as a warlock. The types of magic that it emanated were varied, but a strong necromancy stood out.

Finally the Sister of Streams relented and handed her trident over to Luca who divined that its name was Muirgheal and that, like the others, its power was closely linked to those it bonded with. The magic surrounding it was varied as well, with enchantment, necromantic and transmutation.

Everyone departed the chamber with their weapons while Astrid and Brandomiir, who had been there to witness the ritual, left a little disappointed, having expected to see more fireworks or learn more about the weapons than they did. Brandomiir said that he had witnessed the identification of magical items before, since he knew some runewrights.

Emma went to find Bartosz and found him stringing a row of crossbows in the armoury. She and proposed the ritual she wanted to perform to Bartosz. He claimed to be a follower of the Platinum Father but admitted he was raised in the faith of Chauntea, his father being a gardener in Lynnecombe-upon-Lyn. Emma explained that Chauntea is supported by the life-giving streams that Sedna holds domain over. Benten suddenly spoke from behind Emma urging Bartosz to accept the offer.

“It is a great honour to be chosen for such a rite by a Lady of the Lake. It’s especially auspicious for someone who has grown up on the bank of an important river.”

Bartosz started to get excited and asked Emma when and where the ritual would take place. Emma told him that it could be performed that very evening in the courtyard of the estate. He asked if he could invite his family and she encouraged it, even going so far as to offer to take over his task of stringing the crossbows so that he could take off and inform his family and bring them back to the estate.

Meanwhile, Luca spent time with Blackstar, while Emrys took the time to attune himself to Toruviel. Emma followed once she was done talking to Bartosz and she and Muirgheal bonded, too. Muirgheal immediately sang to her.

“Beware, beware, the daughter of the sea.”
“Beware,” I heard him cry.
His words carried upon the ocean breeze,
As he sank beneath the tide.

When Bartosz later arrived back at the estate, he had half of the village following him in festive procession. Another feast had been prepared and people made merry. Eventually it became time to perform the ritual. Emma took centre stage on the landing at the top of the steps leading to the entrance to the mansion.

Those blood-soaked coasts of Jagg’d Shore,
Where sailors fought and died.
The Admiral fell at Dunagore,
because… she left his side.

Everyone gathered at the bottom of the steps and Emrys started expertly playing the lute he had borrowed from one of the servants in accompaniment of the ritual.

Words were spoken to acknowledge Bartosz ordeal and his return from the wilderness into the waiting arms of the community he grew up in. He was no longer the adolescent they knew, but now was an adult and one who strengthened the community as much as the community strengthened him. Bartosz was lead in a vow of dedication to the community as well as the Gods. He was then washed in Sedna’s holy waters.

At the start of the ceremony Bartosz older sister had made some teasing, playful jests at his expense that drew friendly giggling from the crowd, but by the end the community stood in awe of the new man standing in front of them. They cheered him on!

In the meantime, Luca had secretly slipped away from the ceremony to go to the stables, intent on freeing the orcs from their captivity. When he approached the entrance to the stables he noticed that the two guards were not at their post. When he eventually stepped inside the dark stables, he noticed that the orcs had extinguished the lights, and could barely make out the two unconscious guards, tied up in the corner. The orcs were armed with the weapons that Luca provided, as well as the arms they had taken from the guards. Brandomiir was there as well, having beaten Luca to the punch.

Quickly, Luca bid the orcs a safe departure and they sneaked out of the stables. Brandomiir and Luca returned to the ceremony just in time to witness the end of it. While people were cheering and the orcs were using the hay-filled sacks they had taken off their cots to climb over the spiked walls behind the stables, hounds could be heard barking ferociously. It didn’t take long before captain Mollen noticed the two missing guards and she immediately went to toll the warning bells!

Confusion erupted among the villagers and servants, and for a moment both Emma and Emrys weren’t sure what to do, so they lead the villagers to the well while the servants were fleeing inside the mansion and the servants building.

Why this? Why this, oh Daughter of the Sea?
Why this? Did you forget your seaside days?
Always the pride of our kingdom’s eyes,
How could she go astray?

Captain Mollen had quickly formed a squad of six guards and had retrieved the crossbows from the armoury, eager to pursue the fleeing orcs. Ser Guillaume and Ser David had joined Emma and Emrys and took over the care for the villagers. Bartosz, together with Dame Julie and Dame Madeline, ever the friends of the orcs, had followed the guards in pursuit of the orcs. Brandomiir retrieved his arquebus and was running out of the gate as fast as his short legs could carry him. Luca and Astrid made their way in pursuit, too, and somewhat reluctantly, Emma and Emrys also joined the chase.

Lyrian Arbalist

They found the orcs not far south, on the high bridge over the stream leading to the river Lyn, being held at crossbow point by the six arbalists, under the leadership of captain Mollen, who was ordering the orcs to surrender their arms, while Bartosz was trying to deescalate the situation and prevent any bloodshed. Captain Mollen was unwilling to listen. Korath and Kaedan had lowered but not dropped their weapons, while Summi had taken an aggressive crouch and Garr was pacing from one side of the bridge to the other, pumping himself up and getting more enraged by the minute.

When Emrys tried to talk to captain Mollen, he was confronted by vicious riposte with a thinly veiled racist undertone that told him that the captain would not be reasoned with. He positioned himself to the side of the arbalists and quietly drew Toruviel

Bartosz had not given up trying to talk sense into the captain, while placing himself protectively between the arbalists and the orcs. The Lyrian knights did the same, flanking Bartosz on either side. Dame Madeline kept her halberd disengaged, and Dame Julie left her swords sheathed, but did protectively hide behind her shield. Luca had also tried to convince the captain to stand down, but when that didn’t work, he commanded her and the nearest arbalist to flee the scene.

The arcane words he uttered impacted the captain and arbalist hard, and they fled with a startled cry, roughly pushing their way past the other guards. This shocked the group of arbalists so much that one of them yelled “fire!” and five bolts went flying. That’s when Emrys used one of Toruviel‘s innate powers and sent a gust of strong wind to fly into the projectiles, knocking three of them aside. One of the arrows bounced harmlessly off Dame Julie’s shield, but the last buried itself deep in Bartosz’s chest.

Suddenly there was a flurry of movement from the orcs, as they all jumped over the edge of the stone bridge, plummeting in the rough water far below. In seconds they were washed away beneath the white froth of the stream below.

Bartosz sank to the ground, bleeding from his chest and mouth and the light quickly faded from his eyes. Emma ran towards him, mumbling a prayer to Sedna even before she laid her hands on him to heal him from his otherwise mortal wounds. The Lady of Lakes heard her words and responded and the bolt was pushed from his chest and the wound mended itself neatly. Breath once again filled Bartosz’s lungs and his eyes opened wide in panic.

The irony of it all was not lost on Emma. Even though the other adventurers knew nothing of her stringing the very crossbows that eventually were turned on the man she sought to cement as a local leader and hero, they all felt that perhaps they had overstayed their welcome in Lynnecombe.

They returned to the estate to gather their things and depart. Lord Marcus was more nonchalant about what had occurred, saying that he would make the arrangement for them to get the cart and horses, as well as the small fortune that was promised to them for expenses. He believed that by the time they would return with his brother Destan that things would have calmed down and returned to normal. As they departed, he wished them a well;

Good luck. And may Mask soften your step.

The orcs had escaped what was likely a bloody fate, to test their mettle against the uninviting countryside of Lyria, where every soul they meet would see them dangling from a rope tied to the highest tree.

Bartosz would never be the same, as he saw more violence inflicted upon him at the hands of those he called friends and family more than the Skaven ever did.

The adventurers are once again in the employ of the “noble” house Sheridan, who seem a mix of equal parts ambition and mystery. Having never once been eye to eye with the patron of the house and having mixed feelings about the three other Sheridan lords they had to deal with. And now they are charged to retrieve a fourth Sheridan lord, taking them to Kingsport, Bournemouth and likely through the Riverlands and into the Silverpine Hills beyond.

Travel Across the Verdant Kingdoms

The Verdant Kingdoms have been populated by humans for several thousand years, and by the elder races for much longer than that. In that time they’ve built roads, cities, villages, castles and strongholds. Travel between them can vary in ease. Here’s a quick rule of thumb to determine how easy it is to travel from place to place. All of these are estimations which assume easy terrain.

Type Avg. Lg/Hr Max. Lg/Day Short rest per… Tot. Time/Day Tot. Lg/Hr
Adult 1 lg 8 lg 4 lg 9 hr 0,9/hr
Army 1 lg 8 lg 4 lg 9 hr 0,9/hr
Raven 5 lg 50 lg 10 hr 5/hr
Horse, walk 1 lg 16 lg 8 lg 17 hr 0,9/hr
Horse, trot 3 lg 24 lg 6 lg 12 hr 2/hr
Horse, canter 5 lg 20 lg 5 lg 8 hr 2,5/hr
Horse, gallop 8 lg 16 lg 4 lg 6 hr 2,7/hr
Ship, merchant 2 lg 30 lg 16 hr 1,9/hr
Ship, war 3 lg 45 lg 16 hr 2,8/hr
Ship, reaver 4 lg 60 lg 16 hr 3,8/hr


Of Orcs and Men

Fifth Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

Previously, the adventurers managed to collapse the portal room and make their way through the catacombs, into the aqueduct and back to the estate. They found a warm welcome, until the Kaedwyni orcs climbed out of the well and then the mood soured. The orcs were sequestered in the barn and a feast was prepared to celebrate the return of Bartosz, the stalwart Sheridan guard who had made it back to the surface after being lost. The servants ate in the courtyard, the lords and their guests, including the adventurers, at in the mansion, and the orcs were stowed away.

The dinner at the mansion continued and there was ample room to socialise. Astrid and Marcus descended into doing drinking games, while Emrys was going around the table talking to everyone. Emma spoke to Benten about the pendant, intending on returning it to him, but he gifted it to the adventurers for their search of Lord Destan. He explained that it was a Transmuter’s Stone, which allowed the wearer certain small, but handy magical benefits, ranging from bestowing darkvision upon its wearer, much like that which is innate to the elder races, or making a person more hardy and able to withstand the elements.

The topic of the orcs came up and it became clear that the Sheridan position was a precarious one. Host the orcs as guests and it would cause trouble among the commoners, and if word spread, among other nobility. Let the orcs depart on their own recognisance and they would have to stealth and fight their way to safety. Smuggle the orcs to the coast and it would require having to stow away the orcs in boxes and crates, which seemed like something the orcs felt was too akin to imprisonment. One thing became clear, if a solution wasn’t found quickly, Lord Jonathan wouldn’t hesitate to put the name of his house before the safety of the orcs.

Luca departed for the night, and Emma eventually tried to show solidarity with the orcs by spending the night in the stables. Captain Mollen reasoned with her that the commoners would never accept that and assume the worst. The orcs would not remain safe, nor could Emma’s safety be guaranteed. Emma relented and tried to talk to the orcs and convinced them not to do anything rash, but ultimately felt that the situation was as unstable as Brando’s blasting powder. Anything could ignite violence.

Sixth Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

The following morning, Luca got up early and went to visit the orcs. He had felt that it was time to help the situation along, since he had given up on a satisfying resolution if he let things up to the Sheridan lords. He warned Korath to be at the ready and wait for a big boom before making their escape. He departed the stables and started walking around the grounds trying to analyse the situation in order to best aid the orcs in their escape.

The rest of the adventurers came together outside to rummage through the left overs from last night’s feast and cobble together a breakfast. Emma noticed that Luca was plotting and when they all spoke it became clear to the others that Luca was planning an escape for the orcs. Emma was reluctant, but she understood the orc’s credo: Kor-ah ogar, freedom or death, and so she felt she should help. Arming the orcs, however, went against what she considered to be the laws of the hospitality that they had been offered by the Sheridan lords. Astrid offered the orcs her weapons, a great sword and two hand axes. Emma offered them her javelin. Other weapons they would have to improvise.

The adventurers found themselves in conversation in the mansion’s study and they made a proposal; one thousand gold crowns for each upon the safe return of Lord Destan, and one thousand gold crowns for the group for expenses. Besides that, Lord Jonathan would give the group two horses and an open carriage for transportation. It all seemed like a rushed negotiation while the adventurers had the orcs on their mind.

Luca was given a pearl by Benten the Purple so that he could further investigate the weapons that they had taken from the catacombs. And Luca also told the others about the macabre history of the Crimson Tower

Closing the Portal and Returning to the Estate

Fourth Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

Previously, the adventurers had battled their way past the albino skaven and its forces, including the ogre-sized rat and its taskmaster to find the portal through which the skaven had arrived in the catacombs. They had found James, captured and bound, in a state of torpor from which he would not awake. He  was one of several prisoners, including one of the missing dwarven engineers by the name of Brandomiir and Bartosz, the remaining missing Sheridan guard. And then there were the four orcs, who had been used as slave labour by the skaven.

Soon after the four Lyrian knights who had been fighting the skaven in the catacombs came into the room through the second entrance to the mezzanine that the adventurers had seen, and introduced themselves properly.

The prisoners were released and together a plan was hatched to collapse the room on top of the portal, therefore closing off the skaven’s access to the catacombs. Initially, the plan was to use Emma’s gifts as a priestess to create water in the cracks and crevices of the ceiling of the room. The ceiling had already been severely compromised due to the sudden appearance of the portal and its powerful but unstable magical energy.

The group decided to move to the mezzanine and climbed the broken staircase. Summi, the smallest and most nimble of orcs, carried the still unconscious James in his arms and managed to climb up. When Emrys and Dame Julie were having trouble scaling the staircase, the orcs created an “orc ladder” where they locked arms and gave everyone having enough handholds to make it up the broken staircase.

Emma asked Brando if he could lend his engineering assistance, which he was happy to do. He had been in great spirits after having found his weapon, a thing he called an arquebus, from among the crates that the skaven had left behind. His advice was far ranging and had to do with the “load-bearing capacity” of certain section of the ceiling, pillars and walls. It was Bran’s belief that the task would likely be accomplished much faster with his blasting powder.

Emma and Emrys decided to give their idea a chance first and while they did manage to widen one particular crack in the ceiling and dislodge several rocks from it, it was not nearly enough to cause a collapse of the room. Korath was pushed forward by the rest of the orcs;

Humies need ratmen barrel that boom go?

Korath brough a small group to one of the excavated vaults which the skaven had turned into a store room. Three barrels filled with blasting powder, much like the ones used to collapse the entrance to the communal room in which the adventurers fought the rat-ogre and its taskmaster. There was also enough fuse wire to allow the entire room to be rigged with explosives. While Brandomiir wasn’t particularly happy with the quality of the blasting powder, he became positively giddy at the idea of using it to bring down the ceiling of the portal room.

Before the room was rigged up, most retreated back to the communal room to prepare for rest and to hide from the explosion. Ser Arman stayed behind in order to protect the group setting up the demolitions. He spoke to Emma; it seems he had noticed her ailment and offered to use the blessings of Paladine to restore her to her former health, an offer she gladly took him up on.

Ser Arman takes his heavy gauntlet off his right hand and places it gently on Emma’s shoulder. He closes his eyes and his hard faces softens as he starts to mumble, only audible to those nearest to him.

“Lord of Light, Patron of Good, Father of all things, bestow your mercy upon this woman, whose heart I have judged to be good and purge her body of the evil filth brought upon her by the rats which defiled these hallowed halls like they defiled her body.”

Emma’s body starts shaking uncontrollably as if bereft of warmth on a cold winter’s day. Slowly at first, but violently after a few seconds. Her teeth chatter, her limbs spasm and with every convulsion, as her limbs twitch back and forth, wisps of acrid smoke trails off her skin.

Seconds later Emma’s body once again comes to rest as the lasts tufts of ochre smoke trails into nothingness, and she feel exhausted. There is a peaceful stillness and calm inside of her that fills her with a sense of happiness and contentment.

Under Bran’s instructions the barrels were placed and the fuses were drawn. Luca did the honours and conjured a flame from the palm of his hand which he used to light all the fuses at once. Immediately the group retreated out of the room, down the corridor and hid at the far end around the corner for three heavy explosions to rock and shake all of the catacombs. Dust and debris was jettisoned from the corridor but nobody was injured. After a cursory inspection the room was determined to have been a complete collapse.

The adventurers decided not to circumvent the collapsed room and approach it from the other direction to make sure that the other entrance to the room was also completely blocked.

In the meantime, the rest of the group, under the leadership of Lord Marcus, managed to tidy up the communal room by getting rid of the skaven bodies and starting a fire using the wood and filler from the crates they had found in the portal room. When everyone was reunited the remaining food was shared between everyone and Emrys even found some ways to stretch it by making some broth. The Lyrian knights decided to stand guard while everyone tried to rest.

Fifth Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

Several hours after deciding to rest in the communal room while the Lyrian knights take turns to stand guard at the only open doorway. While everyone was busy waking up, the orcs, under Bran’s supervision, started to clear the other doorway, the one that the skaven had collapsed. Emma helped out for a while, but couldn’t really improve the speed with which the orcs were going through the rubble any, so she decided to turn her attention to the conversation that Emrys was having with the knights.

Ser Arman shared some of the legends that were taught at the different orders of Lyrian knights, about the Silver Crusade and about the Senhadrim that were in league with them. There was some further speculation about the nature and the purpose of the catacombs, but no new insights or revelations that the adventurers hadn’t considered before.

When Emrys asked Ser Arman how he came to lead his knights into the catacombs, he said that he was visiting the Correntine ward in Kingsport from Gryphon’s Roost and got word from his cousin, Lord Charles Courtenay, the Duke of Northshire and Baron of Powderham, which is an estate neighbouring that of Lynnecombe. A sink hole had been discovered on Powderham lands and was wondering if Ser Arman wouldn’t mind investigating.

The conversation turned to the orcs, and Ser Arman proposed a pact between the knights and the adventurers; that they would stand in opposition to anyone who would capture or harm the orcs in any way. They had proven themselves to peaceful and helpful. The adventurers all agreed to the pledge.

When finally the orcs had managed to dig through enough of the rubble in the doorway in order to push even Garr’s massive frame through safely the group got under way. As before, Emma relied on the markings she had left in the walls, while Luca relied on his uncanny ability to simply know the way, and the group walked all the way back to the passage leading to the aqueduct.

Upon arriving in the aqueduct, Brandomiir quickly retrieved the things he had left behind. He was especially happy to see his blasting powder in good condition.

When the group arrived at the well, Astrid ferried them across to the middle of the lake:

Astrid starts ferrying people from the edge of the aqueduct to the centre of the pool where the bucket at the end of the boom dips into the water. Lord Marcus is the first to go up and finds a steadily growing crowd of house guards and servants gathering around the well on the surface. One by one people emerge. When Bartosz finally emerges from the well, the gathered crowd erupts in cheering and clapping. From the balcony above, the Sheridan lords join in the clapping. With his triumphant return, Bartosz salutes Captain Mollen and is instantly elevated to the status of hero. The man who came back from the depths.

When the Lyrian knights are hoisted up and out of the well the crowd quiets down and a murmur of awe and wonder spreads through the crowd. Children hide behind the skirts of their mothers, youngsters look in admiration and the elderly cast their eyes down in reverence. When Ser Arman climbs out the well, the Sheridan lords look up in shock and disappear from view as they retreat inside the mansion.

The lords make it down to the well, just in time for Korath to squeeze his frame through the well’s opening. The response by the commoners is to take several frightened steps back. The response by the house guards is to draw arms and close ranks. Korath takes a knee, lowers his head and opens his arms in a sign of submission, while the Lyrian knights place themselves defensively between the house guard and Korath. One by one the orcs climb to the surface, each met with more shock than the next. Finally, Summi emerges, carrying James across his shoulder. He gently lays James down on the ground and also opens his arms in submission. Garr is trying his best to appear nonthreatening, but there simply isn’t a fibre in his body which will allow him to appear that way.

The servants left while Lord Marcus discussed solutions with his brother. Emma suggested housing the orcs in the stables, quarantining them much like the way she had been quarantined during her illness. The lords agreed with the suggestion and Captain Mollen escorted the orcs to the stables and ordered the stable master to clear it of horses. Cots were set up for the orcs and they were required to hand over their weapons.

A banquet was planned for later that evening and there were still a few hours to spend before it started. Emma felt the urge to head to the river and invited Luca along. Emrys and Astrid decided to join for the walk.

The woods around the Lynnecombe estate were warm, pleasant and filled with life, making the walk to Lynnecombe-upon-Lyn very pleasant. So pleasant that it made Emma hum some sea shanties. To her surprise the trident which she had found in the catacombs and was carrying on her back, was gently resonating in harmony with her tune. Arriving at the village, the adventurers decided to circumvent it and head towards a shallow in the river that gave them some privacy.

There, Emrys spent time sitting at the water’s edge, inspecting the elven longsword he had retrieved from the catacombs. It was unnaturally light for such a sword and he could carry it with great ease. The blade was made from a metal that so bright that it seemed to shine with an inner light. Elven runes of great antiquity were carved all down the centre of the blade, reminding Emrys of the legendary Moonblades that were in the possession of the most ancient and noble Elven lineages. The guard was made from metal and brass and a delicate braided, metal wire wrapping neatly around the long heft.

Astrid had undone much of her clothing and was laying in the grass, dangling her feet in the water. Seemingly without a care in the world.

Emma had undressed and taken to water and was swimming a few laps before getting Luca to do the same. It had taken some time to convince him and he didn’t seem comfortable once he was in the water. Once Emma held him by the arms and he floated in the water Emma started to perform a cleansing ritual, meticulously cleaning his body, which eventually cured him of the disease which the skaven had inflicted upon him.

The four adventurers stayed at the river’s edge until it became time to head back to the estate at the end of the afternoon. Upon their return, Ser Arman had departed for Powderham. They found Brandomiir on a bench in the sun smoking a pipe and the remaining knights cleaning their arms. The servants had set up long tables in front of the servant’s house and had laid out a feast of soups, sausages, vegetables, breads and cheeses. It seemed that the servants would be having their own banquet that evening.

The adventurers decided to fill up four large plates of food and bring it over to the orcs who were still in the stables. Two of the house guards had been stationed outside of the stable and initially had no intention of letting the adventurers through, but were quickly convinced to step aside. Inside, the orcs, having had to relinquish their weapons, had prepared plenty of make shift weapons. Emma advised them to keep the weapons out of sight to which Korath made the emotional and determined pledge that they would not be imprisoned again. They gladly accepted the food and the adventurers departed.

Eventually, Captain Mollen came to invite the adventurers, the knights, Brandomiir and Bartosz to follow him to the mansion where they were lead to the dining room. There an even more impressive feast than the ones the servants had prepared was laid out on a table decorated with fine plates, silverware, cups and even delicate crystal glasses to serve wine in.

The Sheridan lords were seated at the head of the table, Lord Jonathan at the top of the table, with Lord Marcus and Ser Benten on either side. The dinner was served.

First, a thick soup of barley and venison, followed by a salad of sweetgrass, spinach and plumbs, sprinkled with crushed nuts. Then snails in honey and garlic, followed by a trout, fresh from the river, baked in clay, where the hard casing is cracked open to expose the flaky white skin within. The crowning dish was a large rack of boar, thinly sliced and seasoned with rosemary and crushed peppercorns. For dessert, sweetbreads and cheese, baked apples with fragrant cinnamon and Carcarian cakes frosted in sugar. All served with the finest Beauclairois wines, Mazurian spirits and Lyrian ales.

While everyone ate and chatted a trio of servants played instruments on the mezzanine above. The conversation was pleasant until the conversation turned to the fate of the orcs in the stables. Lord Jonathan was convinced to find a way to allow the orcs to return to Kaedwyn, which he admitted was going to be hard considering the Lyrian and Kaedwyni attitudes towards their race. The couldn’t stay, because that would not go well with the locals. They could not be set free, because that would not go well with the locals. Besides offering to smuggle them onto a ship at Kingsport and sailing them to Kaedwyn, Lord Jonathan didn’t offer any committed solutions.

Lord Jonathan proposed that the adventurers, who had shown themselves capable, resourceful and trustworthy, would set out for another task. It seemed that the patron of House Sheridan had decreed that the middle brother, Lord Destan Sheridan, should return home from an expedition to Pinefall; lands belonging to the Sheridans up in the Silverpine Hills. He was to return home and stand by his family while they considered the revelations of the last couple of days.

Lord Destan had left for Pinefall on the festival of Greengrass, together with three house guards as an escort. Initially he sent word back every few days, but they had not heard from him in three rides and they were worried that something might have happened to him.

Lord Jonathan claimed that the middle brother had gone to find the mysterious Crimson Tower, which legend had it resided in the area. The village of Bristlecone is where he had headed, and there was another hamlet by the name of Hunter’s Hollar that they knew of in Pinefall.

Luca, familiar with many legends, knew the Crimson Tower’s macabre tale, but decided to keep it to himself for now:

The story goes that a powerful member of the Silver Crusade was corrupted by a high ranking devil prince and convinced to lead a several hundred knights into a battle they couldn’t possibly win.

The knights were resoundingly defeated and their bodies were magically kept from dying. Neither truly alive, nor truly dead, the knights were stripped of their precious arms and armour and taken to the tower.

Their bodies were nailed to the tower until it was a writhing mass of bleeding bodies, moaning and howling in pain. Their blood soaked the walls and permanently stained them crimson, which is how the tower got its name.

The demons flew around the tower and raked at the bodies with talons and claws, and lashed them with barbed whips, and still the knights wouldn’t perish.

Eventually, a large host of griffon riders made their way down from Gryphon’s Roost to free their captured comrades, but when they arrived the tower was gone and so was any trace of the knights.

A search was conducted; griffon riders flew far and wide, the woods were combed by hunters and footmen, lakes were dived by fishermen, but not a trace of the tower or the knights were recovered.

Over the following decades, the tower was spotted appearing and disappearing, and the screeching of demons and the howling of the damned knights could be heard at night. Each time it was followed by another search by the Lyrian knights for their captured comrades, and each time the were disappointed to find no traces.

Finding the Source of the Infestation

Third Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

Previously, the albino rat-man had just filled up the corridor with a noxious fume, leaving the adventurers coughing and retching, and giving it enough opportunity to escape. When the fumes cleared and the adventurers regained the control over their diaphragms, they found a trail of dark, arterial blood. It was gravely injured and unlikely to have gone far.

They found the wretched creature in the middle of a large, pillared hall at the end of the corridor, softly lit by a row of ensconced torches. It was up against a central, stone bench, struggling to sit up. They approached carefully, remembering the ambush in the last pillared hall. Emma kicked the scythe it had carried away from it and tried to talk to it while Astrid and Marcus made sure to secure the rest of the room.

The albino was coughing up blood and gibberish that nobody understood. Nobody but Luca, who seemed able to understand and communicate with the dying rat man. Luca learned that the rat men called themselves “skaven” but was unwilling to share much more until Luca used an arcane command to compel the “skaven” to speak. Much to the skaven’s own surprise the words tumbled from its bloody maw.

The skaven were there to find the “imprisoned sorcerers”, who had their spirits embedded in the “One-hundred-forty-four Arms of the Senhadrim.” Luca kept pressing the skaven but the arcane compulsion had faded. The skaven remarked that the source of Luca’s abilities were similar to its own, but that it knew that it’s patron, the “horned rat”, was stronger than Luca’s. Luca unleashed a deadly bolt of dark, eldritch energy and killed the skaven.

His action came much to the surprise of the other adventurers, perhaps even to the surprise of Luca himself. Both Emma and Marcus voiced their concern, but before the conversation could start in earnest, a large, heavy object came rolling into the doorway from whence they came and exploded with a deafening boom, collapsing the corridor.

Soon after…

Heavy footfalls can be heard coming from a corridor up ahead. Accompanied with the footfalls is a strange scraping sound and occasionally you hear a low, rumbling screech. The archway remains dark for a moment as the source of the sounds seems to be coming closer.

The first thing to hit the light is a pink, whiskered snout, which appears just below the top of the doorway. It sniffs the air and a giant rat-man appears to fill the archway. It tries to push its way in, but the archway is too small to fit its massive frame. It easily stands at the height of a full grown ogre.

Angry screeching and a sharp crack of a whip can be heard from behind the behemoth. Frustrated, it lets out a terrifying screech and angrily pushes forward, into the archway’s frame. A claw reaches into the door and it pops its head and one of its shoulders through the opening, still stuck with the rest of its body. It strains its legs and with a screeching roar it dislodges several stones from the archway, bursting into the room while behind it more masonry falls to the ground.

It’s body is a mess of scars, pink flesh and sickly tufts of mottled brown hair. Some of the scars seem fresh, with large iron staples holding the flesh together. Its right paw has been replaced by — or fitted with, it is completely unclear — a large jagged spike that extends far past its legs. It must have been fitted with it a long time ago, since the right shoulder seems to have grown considerably in bulk to compensate for the weight.

On its back, seated in a strange, leather harness, sits another rat-man, carrying a wicked, barbed whip in one hand and a hand crossbow in the other. The leather straps that hold the harness in place are fitted around both shoulders, but the bulbous, muscled flesh of the right shoulder has painfully swallowed the straps as it has been forced to grow around it.

Once cleared from the rubble falling on top of it from the crumbling archway, it immediately lopes towards you, spurred on by the its taskmaster, raising that dreadful spike, ready to attack.

While the giant rat ogre and its taskmaster ran into the room the adventurers took up cover behind the large stone bench that the albino had died up against. Lord Marcus took up positions between the bench and a pillar on one side while Astrid did the same on the other side, effectively closing off immediate access to the rest of the adventurers.

The rat ogre ran towards Astrid and immediately engaged her in vicious battle, stabbing and striking at her with that vicious spike attached to its arm. Lord Marcus circled around and started to attack from the flank, while Emma unleashed a bolt of radiant, aquamarine light at the taskmaster who was hit square in the chest, despite being partially hidden behind the rat ogre’s large frame. The others respondent swiftly and made managed to take the task master down quickly while Astrid kept the rat ogre’s focus on her while they did so.

Midway through the fight several skaven scurried into the room, attacking Lord Marcus in the rear and also reaching Luca and Emrys. Emrys managed to make excellent use of the discarded scythe belonging to the dead albino to fling it across the room and into the skaven, while Luca sent bolt after bolt of eldritch energy into them.

The rat ogre continued to fight on ferociously, seemingly swelling up in size, with noxious fumes escaping its mouth and nostrils, and even through some of the fresh wounds that had been stapled together on its torso. Shortly after it let out a billowing stream of noxious vapour which washed over Astrid and Emma.

Eventually, Astrid was gravely wounded and she briefly lost consciousness before Emma stepped in to quickly call upon the merciful powers of Sedna to pull her from the brink of death. Shortly after the big brute was brought down, and promptly collapsed on top of Lord Marcus. In its death throws, its torso swelled up with internal pressure, sending several of the metal staples shoot out across the room. Its torso ruptured and released a dangerous cloud of noxious fumes, injuring some of the adventurers who couldn’t get enough distance in time.

When the calm had returned to the chamber the adventurers decided to take a short rest, recovering from some of their injuries and preparing to continue on their search. The corridor from whence they came had collapsed and so the only way was forward. Emrys used his arcane talents to spread water in the entrance to the open corridor and freeze it solid into a slippery sheet of ice. Anyone coming into the chamber while they rested would not go unnoticed.

Fourth Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

After resting, Emma briefly took a moment to inspect the stone bench and the circular well that was set inside of it, while Luca once again inspected the pillars in the room. They were once again decorated with sculptures this time not depicting matters of war, but rather that of community. Emrys once again made himself very useful, putting his arcane talents to use by repairing the damage to Lord Marcus’ chain mail armour. Eventually Luca became impatient to continue down the open corridor and everyone made preparations to leave the lit, pillared chamber and plunge themselves into the dark corridor beyond.

It didn’t go unnoticed by the adventurers that the corridor they entered had a clear, downward slope and eventually they came upon a cross junction. From the right corridor, everyone could clearly hear a curious sound, one that Emma had heard before, like the sound of an everlasting wave. They decided to head in that direction to investigate.

The corridor ended on a partially collapsed balcony overlooking a large room…

The hallway opens up to a large room with a high ceiling. In the middle of the room, surrounded by a halo of electric blue light, shining so bright as to almost approach white, hovers a disc of pure darkness, standing twice is tall as a normal man. Wisps of light emanated by the halo seem to be sucked into the depth of this black maelstrom.

The roiling sound that escapes from the deepest recesses of this pit of darkness resembles that of a wave rolling out from the shore. But whereas a wave comes in, crashes and rolls out again, this wave is ever receding, constant and one directional.

It fills you with a sense of loss and grief.

You see an albino skaven approach the maelstrom and take one last look back, letting out a vicious screech which almost gets drowned out by the sound of despair coming from deep within the center of the nothingness. It steps across the threshold of the rift, and it immediately gets sucked into its depths until it is completely gone. Two cloaked skaven, fussing over something among the crystalline structures, drop what they were carrying and also dive into the rift.

The sheer energy of the portal has caused several of the vaulted archways in the room to buckle and collapse, causing bits of rubble to occasionally fall down around the portal. Some of the stones sometimes enter the portal, and are immediately sucked deep into the black pit.

Strange, multi-coloured, molten slag has gathered in an arc around the base of the portal. Crystalline structures have formed into it, jutting from the slag like vicious teeth from an angry maw.

Among the crystalline structures, you notice the bound and gagged form of a dwarven man wearing a brown leather jerkin, grey breeches and steel tipped, leather boots. His beard is reddish-brown, streaked with grey. His head is shaved down, with a short, brown mohawk. Behind him are several others, all of them bound by leather straps. It’s hard to make out who they are or what state they are in.

The adventurers noticed that two, partially collapsed staircases lead down into the room and that there was another corridor leading onto the balcony from a different direction. Emma was the first to attempt to make her way down the rubble to prisoners below, with the others quick to follow. It was quickly discovered that, among the different crates, chests and barrels of supplies, there was a dwarf, a human, and four orcs, all bound and gagged. Last but not least, they found James, also bound and gagged, but also unconscious.

The first to be unbound was the dwarf, who introduced himself as Brandomiir. Emma asked the orcs if they would cause trouble if she would release them from their bounds, and Brandomiir explained that only Korath could speak and understand common. The others were Kadan, Korath’s brother, Summi and Garr. Bartosz was the human and turned out to be the last missing Sheridan guard. He was very happy to be reunited with Lord Marcus.

Korath was ungagged and explained that they were taken as slaves by the skaven and that they were originally from Kaedwyn. They came to be in the catacombs by arriving through the portal. He said the portals lead to demons and that he had been taken from Kaedwyn by another portal. They were large and strong and possibly not exactly what the adventurers had hitherto associated with orcs.

Brandomiir also explained that James had been brought in unconscious a few hours previous and that it was clear that he had tried to steal from the skaven.

In the meantime, Luca was concerning himself more with the strange portal in the middle of the room, the slag that had formed around it and the crystals that were growing among the slag. He found and collected some strange ore from among the slag and was throwing pebbles into the portal to see how it responded. Emrys was uncomfortable with Luca’s experiment and Luca’s response was… unfriendly.

The five Lyrian knights whom James and Emrys had seen previously appeared through the other corridor onto the balcony. They climbed down and properly introduced themselves. Their leader was Ser Arman de Courtenay, Master Commander in the Order of the Gryphon, dressed in lapis lazuli gilded armour, carrying a sword which Luca later identified as magical.

The two silver-gilded knights, both carrying halberds were Dame Madeline of Ashenvale and Ser Guillaume of Sanségal. The former a tall, blond haired-beauty, the latter a brown haired, mustachioed fellow with a thick, Beauclairois accent.

The two remaining fire-gilded knights, both carrying swords and shields, were Ser David Longstrider of House Longstrider, whom Emrys remembered to be a noble house from Farcorner, and Dame Julie of Lewisham, a woman with a strong, stoic features and a strong Kingsport accent.

It was decided to continue travelling together. The orcs were also invited to come along, though it was unclear what would happen with them once they reached the surface. Lord Marcus suggested that there might be an opportunity to have them sail to Kaedwyn on one of the Sheridan merchant vessels, but that his brother would likely refuse.

The portal would have to be closed somehow. Nobody really knew how to achieve that, so quickly the ideas turned towards collapsing the room in onto the portal. Brandomiir said that he could probably collapse the room if he had access to his blasting powder, which was back at the Sheridan aqueduct. Emma suggested using some of the divine and arcane talents in the group to freeze some water in the cracks in the ceiling, further destabilising it.

An inspection of the chests and crates was done, revealing curious golden coins and a set of identical rubies. Five weapons were recovered, an elegant elven sword, a pair of simple shortswords, a trident beautiful decorated with engravings of waves, shells and sea creatures, and a wooden staff, decorated with pieces of cut obsidian, and a curious gemstone set in the tip, shining like a piece of the night’s sky filled with stars. Luca noticed all these items were magical, but they were in a state of constant flux.