Category: Conjunction of Planes

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.

Emma, Session 6

3rd day of the 3rd ride, month 6 , 1262

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, it is said. I might well agree. Sedna tested me and I think I passed the test. My heart is lighter and my body is pure again. I feel more … alive, more .. whole and wholesome. I have become stronger. And my connection to the Mistress has become deeper.

No longer the need to fear the Father or the Flame. So how did this come about? Let’s recall where we left off:

We have become a large group. Five Lyrian Knight. The five of us, including Marcus. Four Orcs. The Dwarven engineer Brandomir. The Sheridan guardsman Bartosz, and the unconscious James. We are still standing at the portal. A rip in the fabric of reality, if  I’m to believe Luca. He is starting to look worse for wear. Was he afflicted like I was by the foul albino? Whatever is the case, we need to get out of here. We are all tired, low on provisions, and without a clear plan of escape.

We quickly agree to head back to the room with the well, where we went toe-to-toe with the giant rat-beast. There we would rest before we would clear the collapse from the tunnel through which we initially entered that room. It’s perhaps not the most elegant plan, but it is the best we’ve got.
We also agreed that we should try and collapse this very room, the one with the portal. I tried to discuss the technical details with Brandomir, but his mind was clearly bent on using blasting powder. While I was talking with Brandomir, I noticed that the Orcs were shuffling uncomfortably. After a while I asked Korath what was on their mind, and he pointed us to a room where the gnomish rats had stockpiled their own blasting powder. Brandomir lamented the poor quality of the powder, but conceded that it would suffice to collapse the room.

I am a warden against the flame. Using fire to collapse the room felt unnatural to me so I preferred to try and use ice first. To achieve this I worked closely with Emrys. While I called upon Sedna to produce a good amount of water in a particularly unstable looking fissure in the ceiling, Emrys immediately used his magic to freeze it in place. The water expanded and worked like wedge to open the fissure.
The attempt was not a failure. Emrys and I managed to destabilize the fissure and to cause a large collapse. Unfortunately the collapse remained local and did not trigger the other parts of the ceiling to come down as well. It seems that Sedna is content to have Brandomir have his way.

Preparing the powder would take time. I asked Marcus to bring most of the knights and our gear to the room with the well so that they might organize a camp of sorts for us to rest in. The rest of us helped Luca and Brandomir to set up the powder. The powder seems to have peaked Luca’s interest.

All the while Sir Arman was standing guard and approached me. He asked me if I was willing to accept the blessings of the Platinum Lord to lift the ailment that was consuming me. I urged him to heal Luca instead but he proved unwilling to do so. He found my soul to be ‘pure and good’, suggesting that Luca’s is not. Very … interesting. I did not press the matter but rather surrendered to the mercy of the Lord of Light.
I can’t say it was a wholly pleasant experience, but the final result was a great relief. I feel so much lighter and cleaner now that the accursed affliction is gone. A much more pleasant tiredness washes over me. Sedna be praised!

When the powder was placed to the best of our ability Luca was granted the ‘honor’ of applying the fire. We evacuated the gallery and a short while later there was a succession of three low rumbling booms. The blasting-powder exploded violently and collapsed the room. Soon enough there was a cloud of dust and minor debris that washed over us. The filth of fire. It was successful however. The room with the portal is no more.

We retired to the room with the well and made ourselves as comfortable as we could after we shared some of our last food with the Orcs and the Knights. The Knights took turns to guard the remaining entrance to this room. I went to sleep, like most of us did.

4th day of the 3rd ride, month 6 , 1262

After what I assume might have been a night’s rest we wake up in the room with the well. The ‘night’ passed without incident. After breaking our fast Brandomir and the Orcs set to work on the collapse. Brandomir assures us that it will be a matter of a few hours. I chip in a few times, but I can hardly improve the efficiency with which the Orcs are handling the task.

Emrys strikes up a conversation with the Knights . The conversation quickly turns to the ‘Skaven’ and the fact that we have seemingly disabled the source of the threat. The Knights appear to be puzzled about the purpose of the gnomish rats. We filled them in. I was under the impression they were looking for a single specific artefact related to the Senhadrim. I was mistaken, it is about a dozens of artefacts.  Weapons all. We may well have recovered four of these.

Have I laid claim to an ancient artefact of the Father? Did Sedna guide my hand?

We talked some more about the Lyrian Knights and the Senhadrim. It seems that the Knights still teach a lot of lore regarding the time of the Conjunction, but that it is not necessarily wholly believed. The Knights appeared genuinely in awe about the nature of these tunnels, as well as the revelation that we uncovered mural depictions of the early Lyrian Knights and the Senhadrim.

We agreed with the Knights that we would do all we could to have the Orcs return safely to their homeland. There was some discussion about prejudices and about how these came about and are reinforced.
I can’t say that I am immune to such baser instincts. But when it comes to the Orcs I simply made a promise that I will try to honor to the best of my ability. They have been faithful to their promises to us, betraying them would bring dishonor to us all. It seems the Knights think along the same line.

One has to wonder, why do we call the Orcs savages? Is it their behavior we judge? Or is it because they inspire savageness in ourselves?

The passage was cleared without incident and we proceeded towards the exit, relying for a good part on the markers I had left. We paused at the room where we first encountered the gnomish rats and allowed the Knights to examine the murals. We then proceeded to the exit without incident.

When we were hoisted out of the well one by one each of us was given a warm, if not outright heroic welcome. The mood shifted dramatically when the Orcs appeared. The common folk were afraid. The nobles worried. This will not be easy to resolve, but resolve it we must. One way or another. For now we’ve quartered the Orcs in the stables.

James remained unconscious throughout. This is not normal. Should I investigate? Perhaps I should discuss the matter with Luca?

We returned to the Sheridan Estate somewhere in the early afternoon. We were invited to join the Lords for a feast in the mansion in the evening, leaving our afternoon free.
I desperately wanted to wash myself in the river Lynn and suggested that Luca do the same. I feel that I can rinse his body and release the affliction from it. With nothing better to do, Astrid and Emrys decided to join us.
We had a pleasant sunny walk down from the estate and my mood picked up rapidly in the open air and the warm glow of the sun, and more importantly, all the vibrant life around us. I started humming hymns of praise to Sedna. A few of the simpler ones I managed to retain from my ‘tenure’ at the Bains Lyriènnes. To my surprise the Senhadrim Trident started to resonate. Was it mimicking the hymns? Is the artefact tuning to my spirit? Praise Sedna!

Once at the river I quickly stripped down and went for a glorious swim. Emrys rested himself in the shadow of a tree, where he started to leisurely examine the slender Senhadrim sword. Astrid started chucking stones at things and otherwise tried to avoid boredom. Luca stood at the water’s edge … a little forlorn.
I urged him to strip down as well and to join me in the water. He is a weedy little man, and undressing here and now clearly made him uncomfortable. After some gentle coaxing form my side, and much less gentle coaxing from Astrid, Luca joined me in the river. I floated him in front of me and started to rinse every individual body part with a cloth, all the while reciting prayers begging Sedna to release the corruption from this one’s body.
I could feel it had worked. He was still a weedy man when I released him, but his complexion was slightly more vibrant, and his gait a little less cumbersome.

We lounged at the river’s edge for a little while, becoming a bit of an attraction for the local villagers. But then we had to retire to the Estate and join the Lords for their feast.

Back at the Estate we noticed that there was also a feast being prepared for the household servants. Luca and I went over to procure good food for the Orcs. This was met with some stern and disapproving looks, but we persisted and compelled the guards at the stables to let us in. Korath and his mates were most happy with the food.
The Orcs had been disarmed, but had improvised a number of weapons. I can understand. All the same, I urged Korath to try and hide the weapons and avoid any provocations. Korath is thankful and seems to trust me, but also warned that they will no longer be a prisoners. There is a limit to where we can keep them holed up here.

The feast was sumptuous. The kind reserved to the higher ranks at the Bains Lyriènnes, not us lowly acolytes. Then again, I’m not now an acolyte of that respectable establishment. No, I’m in the presence of Lyrian Knights and the Lords Sheridan.
I sat myself close to the dwarf to gauge the degree to which he was mourning the loss of his comrades. This was clearly not on his mind in any way. It made me regret less the fact that we passed by his fallen brother in the tunnels without informing him. I sat back in quiet enjoyment while the dwarf sucked up all the attention in the room with his loutish behavior.

The conversation turned serious. We discussed the matter of the Orcs and I pressed Lord Jonathan that it is important to me that they are treated fairly and that every attempt should be made for them to be allowed to return to Kaedwyn. I would consider fulfilled the promise made by Lord Markus to ‘assist in one’s personal ambitions’.
Lord Jonathan was hesitant to commit, since he saw many difficulties with the task. Eventually this line in the conversation bled dry without much being resolved. We will have to return to this topic at some point. Let’s hear what my companions think.

Lord Jonathan then proposed another task. He wants us to find his middle brother, the mage: Lord Destin Sheridan. He hasn’t been heard from in several weeks. He was in the Silverpine Hills near a few small villages chasing a legend: The Crimson Tower. I noticed Luca’s interest being peaked. All I seem to recall is that it was located on a lake, but I don’t recall any details. Isn’t it just an expression: ‘Sank (in the lake) like the Crimson Tower’ meaning that something was dropped in the water an now lost forever?
At any rate, the Sheridans want their brother home in light of the recent events near the estate. They want to send some people they can trust, but not any of their guardsmen. I’m honored that they would trust us so. We have things to discuss.

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.

Emma, Session 5

3rd day of the 3rd ride, month 6 , 1262

When the noxious fumes had cleared and Lord Markus’ injuries been seen to, we could come to terms with the carnage before us. Lord Markus was quick to find a trail of blood. It appears that we have injured the albino sufficiently for it to leave a trail. Luca and I were particularly eager to follow that trail.
We followed the trail of blood and found a large dark puddle of it at a crossroads. This creature is certainly dying. We kept on the trail.
We found the wretch in a larger room. This one was lit by torchlight from several sconces. The room was spacious and high-ceilinged and was divided into three aisles by two rows of columns. In the center of the room stood a bench of sorts made out of a distinctly different stone. Not the regular slate-like stone, but more like a hard limestone or even marble. Against this bench, the wretched albino was struggling.
Luca and I approached the creature while Lord Markus and Astrid secured our perimeter. Emrys guarded our rear. We disarmed it and I asked Luca to converse with it if able.

The exchange started slowly with the albino showing signs of resistance. I noticed that Luca issued a supernatural or spiritual command and much to its own shock and surprise, the albino complied with a gushing of guttural noises and hisses. I later found out that it revealed that it was seeking the Artifact, the Prison of the Sorcerers, the 144 Senhadrim. And that these gnomish rats refer to themselves as the Skaven.

Then the exchange takes a turn.

While Luca seemed to want to coax the creature to reveal even more, the creature resumed resisting and at some point even seemed to mock Luca. Without warning Luca strikes and kills the albino with one of those dreadful burst of energy he produces.

Neither Lord Markus nor I are fully convinced this was strictly necessary. Though Luca claims that he would not have been able to extract more from the creature. I fear that Luca has shown a significant weakness of spirit and was compelled by pride to act rashly and perhaps even wickedly.

This one keeps confusing me.

Just before we wanted to further explore the room we heard the rolling of metal on stone behind us. A cylinder of sorts, perhaps a barrel, rolled into the opening and exploding in a burst of fire and smoke. The entrance from which we had entered this room then collapsed!
We all automatically looked across the room to our one remaining exit. From there emerged a huge misshapen figure. A true abomination. An unholy marriage of flesh and metal. The body was that of a giant, but the head that of an overgrown rat. One of its arms was replaced for a large part with a crude and vicious looking blade. It was wearing a harness of sorts, which secured some kind of saddle on its back. In that saddle was seated a creature that looked like the gnomish rat we had found in the strange room and which we had tentatively called a taskmaster. This one was urging the brutish one forward with the crack of his whip.

I was ready. From behind the bench, I urged the others to concentrate on the rider and marked it for death with a guiding bolt. Lord Markus and Astrid positioned themselves on our flanks, while Emrys and Luca also attacked the rider. Emrys propelled the albino’s scythe at it to great effect, while Luca let fly another of his sickening bursts of energy.
The brute went for Astrid, Lord Markus then came into its rear. A little later I took position at Astrid’s side and tried to help as best I could. I have no illusions about my effectiveness, but I was keen to help and to keep urging the others forward. Lord Markus put an end to the rider, but was then distracted by new arrivals of gnomish rats. When the rider fell, a foul vapor emanated from the brute’s torso that singed my lungs rather badly.
While Lord Markus fended off the new arrival, Emrys and Luca had their hands full with two more arrivals. Meanwhile, Astrid and I barely held our own, and I had to ask for Sedna’s intercession to prevent Astrid from falling to its fierce attacks. But when the new arrivals were dealt with and we could concentrate our efforts on the brute, the brute was quick to fall.
When it fell, it burst open and exploded into a mist of the same foul, burning vapor. Again, I felt my lungs heave with flames and agony.

The struggle was brief but intense. We were all thoroughly exhausted and could barely remain standing. Emrys first hoped to capitalize on the burst of adrenaline  from the skirmish, but was also compelled by his body to rest. Although he did quite usefully create a sheet of ice in front of our one remaining exit. We rested, amid the carnage.

After about an hour we had regained some of our strength and started examining the bodies and the strange bench. I took the whip. I don’t like this thing, but it might be useful if we ever encounter another one of these brutes. It seemed trained by the whip, so perhaps it can be coaxed away from us in the same way.

I examined the bench, especially the hole it had in its center and from which I could hear and smell water. I replenished my water-supply.

We also found some more relief-sculpture on the columns here. The theme was not warlike, but seemed to be communal in nature, perhaps even worshipful. The central theme appeared to be around creating a sanctuary safe from the daemonic horrors that besieged our ancestors.

Luca became increasingly impatient and was itching to continue. We acquiesced.

We continued for a while into a tunnel that was decidedly sloping downwards, until we found another intersection. We could hear a rushing noise, almost like a receding wave some distance to the right and decided to investigate.
The tunnel ultimately opened into a circular gallery of which only a part of the full circuit survives. The gallery overlooks a lower level with a lot of rubble and collapsed material. One partially surviving staircase offers access to the lower floor.
In the middle of the lower floor stood a peculiar phenomenon. A disc-shaped flat surface of utter darkness surrounded by a halo of bluish-white electrostatic energy. From it, or rather towards it, there seemed to emanate a perpetual rushing of air or water, much like a receding wave. Only continual. Around this phenomenon are numerous crystalline accretions. Are these stones warped by the unholy energy of this … whatever it is?
Around the thing are numerous crates, barrels and other supplies. We then noticed a group of these gnomish rats, again with an albino horned one as their leader. They were leading captives and carrying boxes. When they notices us they were startled and one by one, jumped into the blackness. Is this a portal then?

I wanted to descend immediately to help the captives. The others were quick to follow. We found a dwarf, a human, four orcs, and James. Each one was bound and gagged. Only James was unconscious.
While the rest of us bothered with the captives, Luca was far more interested in the portal and starting investigating it and experimenting with it. When Emrys tried to scold him for not participating, Luca responded with venomous remarks. Lord Markus then scolded Luca for misbehavior. In the end we settled for letting Luca continue while we busied ourselves with the captives. The human turned out to be missing guardsman called Bartosz and the dwarf was one of the engineers that had gone missing and is a named Brandomir.
The orcs were of impressive size but nonetheless feared for their lives. I tried to calm them and simply asked if we could expect harm from them. The one that spoke halting common said we couldn’t, so I removed his restrains and lent him my knife to release the others. Their names are Korath, Kadan, Summi, and Garr, where Korath is the only one to know some common speech.

The orcs were very surprised and wary but were thankful enough to answer some questions. From the captives we learned that the rat-folk used the orcs as slaves for hard labor. Especially tunneling. And that the rats are looking for artefacts. The orcs come from beyond Lyria and came here by taking two portals. The first when they were abducted from their homeland, the second one brought them here. The land from which these portals originate is supposedly inhabited by these gnomish rats and by daemons. It also seems that the gnomish rats have limited control over how and where their portals will open up.

Just when we were finished talking the Lyrian Knights appeared from another corridor on the gallery. Five of them. Their leader wears a gilded plate armor with bright blue inlays and is called Sir Arman de Courtenay. Then there are two with gilded armor and who carry swords and shields, these are named Sir David Longstrider and Lady Julie Lewisham. Then there are two with silvered armor and who carry halberds, these are named Sir Guillaume de Sansegal and Lady Madeline of Ashenvale. After the pleasantries they joined us on the lower floor.

After some discussion it was decided that we needed to band together. We have also convinced the orcs to join us. I hope that they will help us and that we may find a way for them to return to their homeland. The knights have been wandering the tunnels for a few days now and are uncertain about the way back out and are hoping that we might know the way. Unfortunately, the way we came in has become blocked.

Regarding the portal we have come to agreement to try and collapse the room in which it stands, with the hope of closing it. Brandomir was enthusiastic about this plan but said he would require his blasting powder. I suggested that we might start the collapse by freezing water in certain cracks and fissures. Brandomir was less enthusiastic but said that this might be possible, provided we could get the water to freeze in awkward places in the ceiling. With the blessings of Sedna, and some help from Emrys, I’m sure we can manage just that.

We also opened the chests that the gnomish rats were smuggling out of the tunnels. These were a veritable treasure trove. They included a pot of gold coins and a pot of rubies. An elven-made slender sword. A set of simple but elegant shorter blades. A staff with obsidian chips and a disturbing gem at its tip, a gem that almost seems to be a diorama of the heavens by night. Finally, there was a trident with maritime markings. Luca informed us that these items were magical but potentially not stable. I laid claim to the trident.

We are poised to leave.

James is still unconscious. Korath explained that the ‘sneak-thief’ had tried to steal away the shorter blades but was captured by the gnomish-rats. I’m glad to see that he survived and that his recklessness was not punished more harshly. I am impressed by his ability to remain undetected for so long. The gnomish rats had only captured him a few hours earlier. I’m glad he will be spared from slavery. We will have to see what becomes of him now.

Emma, Session 4

3rd day of the 3rd ride, month 6 , 1262

I wake up to the sound of the muffled gruff voice of Cpt. Mollen issuing commands to her troops. Someone has gone missing and ‘he can’t have gotten far.’
I was immediately interested to find out more but then reality kicked back in. My thoughts are still muddled, my movements slow and inaccurate. I am still horribly ill. So I started checking my injuries and cleaning them.

A short while later Cpt. Mollen checked up on me, ostensibly to make certain I was still where they had left me. I asked if I was permitted to leave the stables. Permission was granted to join the other at breakfast.

Before I could leave for breakfast Luca came to visit me. He was very interested in my injuries and the amulet that I was wearing. At the same time he was hesitant to be near me and had his mouth covered with some fragrant cloth.
He examined my wound and appeared genuinely interested in my well-being. At the same time it became apparent that he is poorly practiced and most of his knowledge is ‘book-knowledge’.

Astrid and Emrys were at the breakfast-table, where Emrys had positioned himself at the center of attention. Knowing full well that servants tend to be poor custodians of secrets, especially amongst themselves, I fully expected my affliction to have become common knowledge by now. Accordingly, I was prevented from accepting the chair Emrys was generously offering me. Instead I sat down at the more shady end of the breakfast-table, keeping a polite distance from most others. Astrid quickly joined Luca and me, and Emrys joined us a short while later.

While breaking our fast we tried to discuss what would happen next and where James could be. Rumor was that he had descended into the waterways on his own in the dead of night. About our expectations we found it difficult to come to solid conclusions, despite Emrys’ best efforts to steer the conversation towards a productive end. I reckon we have too few facts to work with at this point.

With the departure of James we have lost a skilled scout. To me it seems foolish to go into those accursed vaulted tunnels on one’s own. I admire his confidence in his own abilities if indeed he went down there. At the same time, in the stories, the Gods tend to be rather unforgiving to those too confident in their own abilities. I pray we shall not find proof of James’ mortality when we are to descend into those vaulted tunnels again.

After breakfast we were summoned to meet the Lords. Lord Jonathan was absent and we were dealing once more with Lord Markus, with Sir Benten bearing witness to the proceedings, literally it turned out.
He offered us a new task: to find the contraption or creature responsible for the tunneling and to disable it if possible. To me this seemed foolishly dangerous, but I am committed to restoring the aqueduct in service to Sedna.

The discussion about the proper reward became awkward rather quickly. Luca made demands that were unacceptable: unrestricted access to the Sheridan libraries. Emrys’ request seemed naively impractical: history forgotten by even the elves.
I tried to find out what amount of golden crowns would secure immediate treatment at the Temple of Pholtus for an affliction such as mine, so that I could ask such a sum in crowns as reward. Lord Markus cut me off and said that I needn’t worry about that and that he would see to it when needed. Missing the point somewhat.
Astrid simply stated that she would take 200 golden crowns. I was happy to take the same amount. Finally Lord Markus pledged 200 crowns to each of us and to assist us in our ‘personal ambitions’ afterwards.

Lord Markus then asked us to whom the reward needed to be sent should we perish. I stated that Dagmaer of the Sacred Baths of Sedna should receive my reward. To my surprise Luca named the same beneficiary, but then immediately made it clear that he found the proceedings pointless, since he was planning to return alive at any rate.

This one confuses me.

Lord Markus was happy to provide any material assistance for the new mission. He also pledged to commit reinforcements, which he planned to provide personally. His willingness to join the mission himself inspires great confidence.

We departed at midday. Before our departure I meditated and prayed to the Mistress. Emrys kindly helped me fix the damages to my gear.

Our travel up to the burrowed tunnel that diverts the aqueduct was uneventful. None of the dwarven tools appeared to be missing, including the jars of powder. We spent some time there to allow Lord Markus to observe and for me to enjoy the stream. Lord Markus noted that the ‘claw-marks’ we had noted earlier were in fact tool-marks of rather large and crude tools.

After entering the waterways we decided to go back to the place where we initially encountered the first group of gnomish rats. The markings were all still in place and with Astrid and Luca taking point we found our way easily enough.
The bodies were still there and we spent some time investigating the room. Lord Markus investigated the corpses and Emrys conjured up a very realistic image of the Albino. All of a sudden we all noticed that this one had horns! I asked Emrys if he was making it more fearsome and fancy, but he seemed as much surprised as the rest of us and sincere.

A short while later we discovered that the pillars in this large hall bore relief sculpture, though much worn. We cleared a patch of it and uncovered a battle-scene between foul-looking horned creatures and human looking characters. There was agreement that this depicted a battle between a throng of demons and human warriors or knights.

I attempted to discern the location where we might expect a more impressive relief and decided upon the middle pillar of one of the rows. My attempt at cleaning away the moss was clumsy and ineffective and did more harm than good; much to the chagrin of Luca. Astrid then proceeded to use oil and fire to clear away a large swathe of moss.
Emrys seemed to understand much of what was depicted on the scene. Personally, I suffered from a bout of nausea at the time and by brain failed to retain much of what was explained. From what I did pick up there was a column of human mages in this scene as well as the first Lyrian knights. I also picked up the phrase Senhadrim, or something of that ilk. This place might well date back to the ‘Time of Fear’. As I said, not an awful lot of it made sense to me at the time.

After our discoveries we decided to press on. Luca berated me for using a hammer and chisel to leave markings. It was too loud and he didn’t want me to deface the ancient stone surfaces. After providing me with charcoal, I was happy enough to leave markings by scraping away some moss and then using the charcoal for the mark.

We seemed to wander rather aimlessly But then we happened upon a burrowed tunnel. The tunnel was not particularly long and ended into a rectangular room. In the room we found the mangled remains of one gnomish rat. A crude scimitar and a nasty whip lay by its side. This one appears to be a taskmaster. Its leathers were rather peculiar, and seemed to be made from the hide of some unknown creature.
The room itself was also perplexing. Who builds a room without entrances?! Judging by the discolorations of the mosses on the walls and floors, it appears that numerous objects that had been resting here had been hauled off. We were unable to make much sense of all of it.

When we continued our way, we heard the din of battle at some distance. We agreed to proceed towards it, but carefully. All of a sudden we happened upon a group of rat-folk, including the Albino. They appeared as much shocked to find us as we were them.

A brutal struggle ensued during which  Lord Markus and Astrid tore through their ranks at an alarming speed. Meanwhile, Luca and I concentrated on striking the Albino. After we had struck it severely it made another escape, leaving us in a cloud of foul noxious fumes.

It escaped once again.

Lord Markus had taken quite a few blows so I spilled some water on his wounds to close them and heal him.