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.