Category: Conjunction of Planes

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.

Return to the Catacombs

Third Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

After waking up in their respective accommodations, either in the servants building, or the stables, the adventurers begin their day. It became immediately apparent to each of them that the day was going to be a warm day indeed.

Luca decides to pay Emma a visit, but not before he had taken some precautions by raiding the kitchen for some of their herbs. A portly Beauclairois chef sternly informed him that he was not to raid the larders without permission of the chef himself. In the end Luca managed to depart with some of the overripe wreaths of garlic and bushels of rosemary, which he fashioned into a smell bag he felt would provide him with enough protection against whatever ailed Emma.

Emma, who had awoken by the sounds of Captain Hallis Mollen ordering a search of the premises for someone who had unexpectedly departed, felt weak. She had just inspected and rebandaged her wound when Captain Hallis checked up on her and gave her permission to leave the stables and join the breakfast.

Luca arrived at the stables shortly after that in order to find out what condition Emma was in. Emma shared that Ser Benten had visited her the previous evening and had supplied her with a crystal pendant which would help her fight off the disease. Luca inspected the pendant and noticed the faint magic emanating from it. When inspecting Emma’s wound, Luca once again heard that warm, honey-dipped voice. This time it assured him that he could freely touch Emma’s wound without fear of being infect, and that the voice would never let anything happen to him.

Astrid and Emrys had found the breakfast tables which had been set up between the mansion and the servants building. Two long tables, covered in a simple, clean table cloth, filled with breads, cheeses, sausages, jams and honeys, wines and ales. All manner of servants were breaking their fast and Emrys and Astrid took place among them. The large nordling woman was quietly devouring everything in reach, while Emrys was intently listening to the talk around him.

Emrys found out that one of the servants, during a late night jaunt to the privy, had noticed that James had quietly sneaked out of the servants building and made his way down into the well under cover of darkness. Once reported, Captain Hallis had sent people to scout the mansion grounds, making sure that nothing had been taken.

When Luca and Emma joined the breakfast table, they were given some free spaces at the end of the table, in the shadow of the mansion. Astrid and Emrys took their plates and went to join them. Quickly the conversation turned to James and his possible reasons for wanting to depart. It was noticed that both Lord Marcus as well as Ser Benten were quietly observing the breakfast from the third floor balcony.

After breakfast, Captain Hallis came to escort the adventurers to the study. There, Lord Marcus offered the remaining adventurers another task; to go back down into the catacombs and to incapacitate the rat-men or take away their tunnelling capabilities. He reasoned that as along as they were still down their and were able to tunnel into the aqueduct, the estate would never be safe from threat. Only then could they get dwarven engineers from Ard Thoradun to repair the water flow. Lord Marcus realised that with a man short that the group would require some backup, and he gladly provided it by offering to come along himself.

The discussion on compensation was initially done individually. Emma asked for a reward which would allow her to get the healing she needed at the temple of Pholtus back in Kingsport. Lord Marcus assured her that he would take care of any such expenses upon completion of the task. Luca wanted unrestricted access to the Sheridan library, something which was denied him by Ser Benten, who felt he could only go so far as to allow Luca access to the unrestricted collection. Emrys wanted access to historical information even forgotten by the elves. When Astrid stated that she would require two hundred gold crowns, Lord Marcus promised each of them the same amount of gold crowns, as well as pledge that he would try to aid them in their individual goals.

Lord Marcus also brought up who the gold crowns should be paid out to in the case of their perishing, and Emma bequeathed the coin to Dagmaer at the Sacred Baths of Sedna in Kingsport. Luca, unexpectedly, also said that his reward should go toward Dagmaer, claiming that he had no intention of perishing in the catacombs. Astrid said that she wanted the gold to be placed on her funeral pyre so that she may take it to Valhalla. Emrys, cryptically, named the elf Voriël, who could be found in the woodland community he was from, confident in the assumption that Lord Marcus to knew the location he was referring to.

Once again, the adventurers could take their pick from the supplies on offer and get ready to descend into well at noon. Luca made arrangements with a leather worker to have a leather armour fitted to him, while the rest either restocked and rested. Lanterns, lamp oil and torches were the predominant equipment of choice and everyone decided to take rations and bedrolls in case the adventurers would need to rest below the surface.

When noon came and the adventurers, together with Lord Marcus, descended into the cavern below the well, Captain Hallis tried to reason with her lord one last time, to no avail. The descent was made easy when Emrys went first and swam to the edge of the pool to retrieve the boat. When everyone had been ferried safely to the start of the aqueduct, Emma called upon the power of her goddess to dry out Emrys’ clothing, drawing a remark from Luca about the frivolous way in which she accessed her power.

The trek up the aqueduct went off without a problem. The blockade was as the adventurers had left it and the equipment belonging to the dwarven engineers who had gone missing was still there, untouched. Everyone scaled the rubble and made it to the tunnel leading to the catacombs and the adventurers pointed out to Lord Marcus the marks that they had found on the inside of the tunnel which they argued were either marks of claws or tools. Lord Marcus ran his finger along one of the marks and found a dusting of iron filings which lead him to believe that the marks were made with tools, not claws.

Making their way through the tunnel to the catacombs the adventurers made their way through the vaulted tunnels to the room where they had fought and defeated the rat-men. In order to illustrate to Lord Marcus who they were up against, Emrys conjured up a very detailed illusionary image of the scythe-wielding, albino sorcerer that was leading them. One of the things that stood out were the curved horns that the rat was wearing, as well as the array of grizzly looking spell components.

In the meanwhile, Emma started to investigate the room that they were in. Different from all the other corridors they have been in, she felt that there was a special significance to the room that they simply couldn’t figure out. Luca saw the wisdom in her inquiry and helped her out. Besides some unrecognisable, decayed, organic material there was nothing to be found. Despite her constant dizziness, nausea and headache, she came up with another plan; since the only thing in the room were the two rows of pillars, she decided to clear one of the middle pillars of moss and search for any decorations that might explain the function of the room.

What she uncovered, with a little help from Astrid, were worn and faded engravings depicting battle scenes of groups of disciplined knights against a chaotic horde of evil looking creatures. Some of the knights were mounted, some of the mounted on flying creatures, and some of them on foot. Later examination also showed several small groups of spell casters in their midst. Some scripture could also be found, but the lettering had faded from the limestone to such a degree that only a few words could be made out here and there, one of which being Senhadrim.

Eventually the adventurers moved on through the other corridor connecting to the opposite end of the pillared room. After some time another tunnel was found, this time dug to a chamber which otherwise had no entrances or exits. Inside, they could find a dead rat-man, cloaked and wearing a strange, thick hide armour. It looked like it had been crushed by something heavy.

Luca was positive that the origin of the hide armour was not from any creature that roamed the Verdant Kingdoms, but nobody was willing to draw any conclusions. The rat-man was carrying a crude scimitar and a cat-of-nine-tails with vicious looking barbs at the end which contained bits of torn, pinkish flesh with rough black hairs on it. It also carried several queer looking coins of copper, brass and silver. Luca decided to pocket those. Inspecting the corpse, the creature didn’t have the same whip- or bind-marks that were found on the other rat-men. The conclusion was that this one was likely a taskmaster whose charge had turned against it.

Investigating the room, it was clear from the way the moss was growing that there had been some heavy objects, furniture or items removed from the room.

Upon departing the room the faint noise of battle could be heard. The adventurers decided to take a corridor in the direction of the noise in order to investigate. Soon, they came upon a group of five rat-men, being lead by a sixth; the albino. The corridor was too narrow for everyone to make themselves optimally useful, but Astrid and Marcus stood side by side, cutting down the front ranks of the rat-men, while Luca and Emma were calling upon their powers to send bolts of darkness and light to attack the albino. The rats fought viciously and the albino responded in kind by sending file bolts of green energy into Luca’s chest.

In no-time the ranks of the rat-men thinned and the albino was gravely wounded. It hurled an egg into the midst of the fray, which cracked to reveal the diseased, dead fetus of a strange, slimy creature, which immediately started generating an enormous amount of thick, noxious, green gas. Soon, the adventurers were coughing and retching, incapable of continuing the fight, while the albino and its few remaining rat-men retreated back the way they came.

The Return to House Sheridan

Second Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

(Silvermoon is waning. Bloodmoon is waning. Darkmoon is in low sanction.)

The rat-men lay dead at the feet of the adventurers while the albino got away. The adventurers quietly discussed what to do next and the popular opinion was to go back to report to Lord Jonathan what they had found in the catacombs. The adventurers saw no way to resolve the problem on their own and thought that the next best thing would be to share their findings. The idea was raised to bring one of the corpses as proof, which was immediately refined since dragging an entire body with them would likely prove to be burdensome. And so Astrid, with all the pragmatism of a butcher, began to separate one of the rat-men’s heads from its torso, put it in a sack and slung it over her shoulder.

Meanwhile, Luca was examining the rat-men and had discovered that many of them had what appeared to be lash marks and scarring around their wrists and ankles, much like what the adventurers had seen on the body of the dwarven engineer. The conclusion was that some, if not all of them, were or had been slaves. The weapons they used seemed strange, poorly maintained and scavenged. The leathers they used for armour was of a strange source that none of the adventurers could really place.

Finally, the adventurers left the hall and tried to make their way back to the aqueduct. James took the lead, trying to stay as far ahead of the rest of the group so that he would not be bothered by the lantern they were carrying to guide their way, nor be too affected by the clumsy way in which their footsteps and movements were echoing through the catacombs. Emrys took up the rear, also making sure to stay out of range of the light and noise coming from the humans in their group.

James started to notice sounds off in the distance and waited for the rest of the group to catch up. Quietly it was decided that James and Emrys would sneak towards the sound, to make sure that it was not a threat, while Luca, Emma and Astrid would continue back to the aqueduct using the lantern to guide them.

The humans set off. At each junction Emma checked for traces of the markings she had left behind on the walls with the hammer and chisel she took from the equipment of the dwarven engineers. Luca confident in the knowledge that they took a left turn at every junction, simply took a right turn in order to get back. Astrid simply followed.

James and Emrys, guided by their elven ability to see in the darkness of the catacombs, using nothing more than the faint light coming from the bio-luminescent moss. Eventually, they start to get closer to the sounds, and what they first mistook for sounds of stone-on-stone, or metal-on-stone, they could clearly discern to be sounds of battle.

Meanwhile, Emma felt her heart sink when at the next junction she no longer found her markings. Luca, somewhat annoyed, said that it was a simple matter of take right turns at each junction. They continued on, but Emma’s conviction that something was wrong grew evermore.

James and Emrys finally followed the sounds to a dead end chamber with a drain in the middle of it. Drainpipes fed into the chamber from the height of a full grown man’s chest in each wall. A faint bit of light a large amount of noise was coming from one of the drain pipes and the two adventurers moved towards it and looked inside.

You follow the muffled sounds of battle, vicious screeching as well as the ringing of steel, to a room which appears to be a dead end. The room holds a central drain which is fed from several circular holes in the walls at the height of a full grown man’s chest. The battle is being waged beyond one of these holes, you’re sure of it.

After a brief moment of concentration you make your way to one of the holes. It has light coming from beyond it and the sounds seem to be clearer when you approach.

You gather around the large hole and look inside. The drain is about an arm in length, and has thick, cast iron bars set vertically in the center of it. The bottom of the drain, as well as most of the bars are covered in a slimy, green muck, collected there over long centuries.

On the other side of the drain you look out into a large room whose floor starts at the drain’s entrance. The source of light becomes immediately apparent as you see four heavily armed and armoured knights stand, defensively, in a circle of light coming from the blade of a fifth knight who is standing in the middle. They are probably at least a dozen paces away from the drain’s entrance you are peering through.

The central knight is wearing a plate armour, engraved with an intricate feather pattern, gilded in lapis lazuli. The other four are dressed in polished plate armour as well, engraved with paisley and floral designs. Two of them wearing armour which is gilded in silver and platinum, one carrying a sword, the other carrying a halberd. The remaining two are carrying swords and shields and their armour is gilded in vermilion.

They seem to have been surrounded by a large host of the rat-men, and they are listening intently at orders being barked by the central knight as the rat-men move in on them. A dozen rat-men already lay dead at their feet.

“Gloria!” the central knight bellows. “Desideratus bellum!” the other knights exclaim in unison, just before the second wave of rat-men engage.

The knights are out-numbered at least three to one, and initially they manage to fend off the attack well. Eventually, despite their tight formation, several of the rat-men manage to drive a wedge between them and slowly start to break their ranks.

One of the knights in the silver gilded armour eventually goes down under a barrage of attacks. Her screams turn into a gurgle as her lungs fill up with blood. A coordinated rush from both shield-bearers clear the rat-men from the body of their fallen comrade and the rat-men are pushed back.

The central knight in the lapis lazuli sweeps a dangerous arc with his sword, battering aside several rat-men from their exposed flank, quickly turns around and kneels at the side of their wounded comrade. A halo of light appears to surround his head as he touches his free hand on the forehead of the fallen knight.

Miraculously, the wounded knight is pulled back to her feet and she quickly picks up her halberd to rejoin the fight. Strengthened by her resurrection, the five continue to press into the rat-men and wear away at their numbers. The tide quickly turns, the rat-men find themselves fighting less favourable odds and they start to vanish back into the shadows.

The five take a moment to asses their wounds and quickly assert that they will continue.

“Decerte!” the knight in the blue gilded armour barks. “Adversa!” the other return in unison, before all running out of sight.

Before the knights departed, James caught their attention and they crowded around the drain pipe. Conversation was difficult because of the difference in height of the rooms the two parties were standing in. The knight with the radiant sword introduces himself as Ser Arman de Courtenay and explains that he and the other knights had gone into the catacombs from the Courtenay estate close to Lynnecombe. The knights had been fighting a running battle with the vermin who also seem to have been under the leadership of an albino.

They asked why James and Emrys were down there and they explained that they were working for house Sheridan. Ser Arman concluded that both estates had been attacked. When James and Emrys told about their plan to return to the estate, he warned them to burn any of the diseased bodies. He also explained that he and his fellows would continue on to find the source, which they later took to mean the source of the disease.

It was during this time that the human adventurers walked straight into an ambush. Luckily the number of ambushers was small, which they later attributed to the knights having fought a great number of them at the same time. While the adventurers made short work of the ambushers, Emma did get viciously stabbed in her side and left her wounded.

After the fight, they returned back to the last junction where Emma saw the markings on the wall. Confident, they continued on to the next junction where the markings were missing. There, upon further inspection, they noticed that like a mirage, the markings suddenly reappeared. They had been tricked by illusions and foul sorcery. They continued on, now more the wiser and determined not to fall for the rat-men’s tricks again.

Astrid tried to support Emma as they walked, but instead, Emma suggested swapping weapons so that she could use Astrid’s spear as a crutch while Astrid could make use of Emma’s mace and carry Emma’s shield on her back.

James and Emrys found their way back to the aqueduct but found no traces of the other group. They decided to split up, James staying behind to scout out the catacombs and await the other group’s return, while Emrys made his way down the aqueduct and back to the well to get reinforcements. They decided it prudent to burn the body of the diseased guardsman on the way back so James handed his remaining oil to Emrys.

While Emrys makes sure to thoroughly burn the body of the Sheridan guard, James finds more places where tunnels have been dug. Some of them have been dug to reveal other catacombs, some of them have been dug and left abandoned, while some have been dug to reveal hidden chambers. It appeared to James as if the rat-men were looking for something.

Upon returning to the well, Emrys talks to Cpt. Hallis Mollen, who takes a quick account of the situation and frees up three guardsmen to come down and aid Emrys. They set off back up the aqueduct.

James, getting impatient, decides to start making a ruckus in the hopes of attracting the attention of the rest of the group. The plan works and he is once again reunited with Luca, Emma and Astrid. It is around this time that Emrys returns to the catacombs with the three guards. A decision is made to return to the estate, taking the dead guards back with them. By the time the group arrives back at the well, it is deep into the evening and the three moons are visible in the clear night’s sky.

A late night audience is arranged with the members of house Sheridan, but first the adventurers get a chance to freshen up and make themselves presentable. Astrid hands the severed rat-man’s head to Cpt. Hallis.

Third Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

Upon entering the Sheridan mansion, James decides to surreptitiously leave a mug of beer he was given as one of the refreshments behind on a shelf of books on the first floor of the mansion.

The audience with the members of house Sheridan takes place in the study on the third floor, where they were initially introduced to Lord Jonathan. The defacto head of house Sheridan is this time flanked by his brother Lord Marcus on one side, and Ser Benten the Purple on the other side. It becomes clear now that Ser Benten is even taller and more impressive in stature than the two noble brothers are. The balcony door is still open, letting in some fresh evening air. The elderly patron of the house is sitting in a wheelchair, his back turned to the open door, looking out over his estate.

In quick order the adventurers told Lord Jonathan about what they had encountered in the aqueduct and the catacombs beyond. Lord Jonathan concluded that while the adventurers had not achieved the goals he had set out for them, he did believe that they had risked themselves enough to be paid what they were owed. He did, however, want them to go back down after a good night’s rest, while Cpt. Hallis kept a close watch on the well’s entrance. The adventurers were to make sure that the infestation of vermin was brought under control and that the tunnel whose rubble blocked the aqueduct was sealed and running water was restored to the well.

When Lord Jonathan asked whether the adventurers needed anything, Emma said she required healing. When it became clear that Emma’s health was worse than her wound would suggest, it was decided to quarantine her to the stables and that Ser Benten would tend to her. Cpt. Hallis then brought the adventurers back to the servant’s quarters, where Astrid was given a room, and Luca, James and Emrys were given a room. She also brought Emma to the stables, where a cot was erected for her to sleep on.

Ser Benten did come by to see Emma, who was busy washing herself in her nightly ritual of worship. He looked at her wound and concluded that he could do little for it. He said that what she needed was the aid of a high ranking priest, like the one that could be found at the Cathedral of the Platinum Father in Kingsport. He told her that in all likelihood, the closest person to aid her was Ser Arman de Courtenay, down in the catacombs below Lynnecombe. He did give her a pendant, with a clear orange crystal and said that it would prevent the spread of her malady and aid her in fighting its creeping affliction.

Meanwhile, James, who had not been content in the quarters he’d been given, had taken to roaming the servant’s quarters in search of a better place to sleep. He tried to convince a guard but got nowhere, and ended up picking the lock on a trapdoor leading to the attic, where he nestled himself in a pile of old clothes and drapes.

Emma, Session 3

2nd day of the 3rd ride, month 6 , 1262

I am dying.

My survival is far from certain and this has led me to doubt my actions. After the dream at the Sacred Baths of Sedna I followed the right course of actions to ascertain the signs in my dream. I have successfully identified each individual part of the vision but am still uncertain about the meaning of the message.

Was I warned to avoid the horrors in the darkness, or was I supposed to find them and face them?

I chose the latter and find myself dying of a disease. It promises a bleak end indeed, since my bodily remains will be given to the Flame upon my demise.

I have spent my life with a healthy dose of fear for the Sea and the Lord of the Deep, knowing … no, trusting, that I would be welcomed in his halls after a life of service to the Mother of Streams. Now it seems that even this fate might be denied to me. That this might happen in the summer I find to be an even crueler irony.

Is this punishment for mistaking the meaning of the dream? If so, it seems unseasonably cruel.

But let us pick up where we left off.

We were in the room where we faced the White Gnome and its minions. After our victory we discussed how to proceed. It was decided to retire to the burrowed tunnel from which we entered into these vaulted tunnels. We agreed that it was too dangerous to linger or to press on.
We reasoned that we had done enough to fulfill the terms of our agreement. I suggested that we bring back one of our gnomish attackers as evidence. Upon James’ further suggestion, Astrid severed one of their heads to take with.
I was almost certain that we could expect an ambush on the return trip, a concern I did not voice aloud, unwilling to cause undue concern. Unfortunately I was to be proven right.

The two elves of our company took the front and the rear and we methodically made our retreat. All went well until we all noticed clanging noises coming from somewhere deeper inside the vaulted tunnels.
James was immediately eager to investigate. I was less enthusiastic about the idea, but found that an argument would not help our desperate situation so I stayed my tongue. After a short discussion the elves departed, leaving the humans with their single lantern to make their way back to the tunnel on their own. Thank Sedna I had placed the markers!

It was very difficult not to liken the departure of our elven companions to the betrayal of Elvenkind to Humankind in their hour of need.

Luca was entirely confident in his own recollections and did not pay attention to the markers at all. I did, and found that at some point the markers were gone. Luca scoffed at the possibility of being mistaken and we persisted on our path.

We walked right into a trap.

Three of the gnomish miscreants appeared from the darkness and started wailing at me with their crude weapons. After one feeble attempt to strike at them I cowered behind my shield while Astrid tore our attackers to shreds.
I was savagely cut and am now dying from a disease inflicted by one of their blades.

I then convinced Luca that we were on the wrong path and we tracked back until we found the markers again. A little later we discovered the truth: the gnomes had employed some kind of illusory magic to obscure the markings and so waylay us. We recovered the right path and successfully found the burrowed tunnel.

The ambush could have been much more disastrous had there been more gnomes lurking in the darkness. I later found out that this was not a stroke of luck, but related to the clanging noises we had discerned earlier on.
I later learned that these noises had come from a fight between five well equipped Lyrian knights and a host of these gnomish rats. The knights prevailed, and our elven compatriots had conversed with them. They warned of a terrible disease and they explained that they had come from the De Courtenay estate nearby. Their leader was Armand de Courtenay, a Paladin of the Platinum Lord, and they were seeking the source of the disease.
Surely the struggle with the knights distracted the majority of the gnomes and secured our survival in the ambush, as well as preventing harm to our elven compatriots in their recklessness. But in fairness, them encountering the knights has been useful.

Upon returning to the tunnel we were immediately ridiculed by the arrogant one. He seemed to take pleasure in the fact that we were waylaid by monsters and nearly slain. I confirmed that we had indeed been tricked by magic of the gnomish rats. He also complained that he had wasted so much time looking for us.
My happiness at recovering our way out was severely dampened by all of this. Luca appeared mostly angry.

Emrys had apparently summoned reinforcements from the estate. Much to the relief of the house guards we decided to retire back to the surface, bringing with one severed gnomish head, and the slain guardsman in the tunnel. The one in the aqueduct had been set on fire by Emrys.

On the surface things started to get a bit blurry for me. We first spoke with Captain Mollen, after which we ate and rested a little. I inspected my wounds and found that I was quite likely mortally wounded.
I failed at proper etiquette when we visited the Lords of Sheridan for our debriefing, but they were kind enough to forgive my transgression. I have missed much of what was discussed but I seem to understand that we are meant to go down into the accursed tunnels again tomorrow.
When they started staring at me as to whether or not I would come with I could only blurt out that I required healing and that I might be corrupted by an affliction.

Upon that dismal note we retired to our resting places. I was offered a corner in the stables, where Benten the Purple visited me in person. He examined my wound and said that he was unable to heal it. He did provide me with an amulet that should stop the affliction from gaining in strength. He explained that the surest way to recovery would be at the Cathedral of the Platinum Lord, but that the closest servant of the Platinum Lord could be found in the tunnels from which we had just returned.

I should have asked him what the masks in the mansion mean.

So now I face the same question I faced yesterday. Do I avoid the darkness and its horrors, or do I go towards them?

In my current weakness and despair I am inclined to go back to Kingsport.

But what if it is part of the test? Should I persist?

Will my servitude to Water end in Flames?

I need to sleep …