Previously, the heroes made it out of the ancient waterways after failing to liberate Hamish from the Steady Hand and the aberrant lords who held him in captivity, exploiting him for his knowledge of the production of dark delirium. Despite Hamish being swept away by an aberrant lord, he managed to slip a wooden figurine into Luca’s pocket, with which Luca believed he could locate his friend.
Third Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262
(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon in high sanction. Darkmoon is waning.)
Despite coming in late from their adventure in the ancient waterways the heroes were unable to get a full night’s rest due to the fishermen waking them up with songs, shouts and laughter. The weather had turned miserable outside, but that would not deter Luca from visiting Vydia. He hoped that the diviner could use the last of the figurines that belonged to Hamish to locate him.
As the companions got ready to brave the terrible weather outside, James decided he was going to use the day to track down the night master’s hideout. Astrid stole a water-treated cloak from one of the fishermen, while Luca made himself unpopular by opening the front door and letting all the heat escape, earning him dirty looks from the patrons and disapproving looks from Durham.
When Quentin, Emrys, Luca and Astrid arrived at Vydia’s manse in Old Town, their clothing was soaked all the way through to their small clothes. Vydia’s servant, the friendly halfling, quickly gave them access to the scullery where they could hang their cloaks and take off their shoes. They were then lead into the kitchen and handed towels while Vydia made them cups of morning brew in a cast iron cauldron hanging from a hook inside her hearth.
When Luca explained why he had come, Vydia explained that she had dreams of Hamish. She could not explain what she had seen well, claiming that she was not an oneiromancer and not specialised in interpreting dreams. She was delighted when Luca handed her the missing, wooden figurine that Hamish had slipped into his pocket. She felt confident that she would be able to divine the whereabouts of the missing mage apprentice.
Vydia invited the heroes to come and stand with her at her cauldron, so that they could see what she saw. Astrid stayed seated at the kitchen table, but Luca, Quentin and Emrys came closer and stood around the hearth. They watched as Vydia started her ritual, speaking arcane words of divination while stirring the morning brew in the cauldron. One by one she tossed the figurines into the brew and they sank to the bottom and while they did a wisp of thin vapour started to rise from the murky liquid.
As Vydia continued her ritual the vapour filled up the rest of the cauldron and pretty soon started to tumble from the sides. Slowly at first, but faster as the moments went by. Soon the kitchen floor was covered and the heroes could no longer see their feet. It rose higher and higher until they were surrounded in mist and could no longer see Astrid or the rest of the kitchen. All that was visible was the hearth, the cauldron, and each other. Luca could see shadows of enormous things moving through the mist like ghostly ships and it reminded him of the things he saw while he stood on the balcony of the crimson tower looking out.
The focus came back to Vydia when she started to speak. She was still staring at the cauldron and the morning brew. She claimed to see a coastline, the mouth of a river flanked by two hills. On one hill stood a fortress, on the other hill stood a lighthouse. A small settlement lay between the two hills, on either side of the river.
She continued to describe how her view changed as she plunged into some catacombs on which the settlement was built. She saw long, dark tunnels with walls covered in glowing moss. She described a wide shaft leading straight down. The walls were covered in slugs which were hiding intricate murals. She then described an enormous eye at the bottom of the shaft. It was golden with a long black pupil, like that of a snake.
Vydia urged the heroes to peer deep into cauldron and they could see the eye too. And suddenly they all made a connection to a strange entity that called itself Xarrombus. It spoke to them through their minds. A creature that claimed to have “ownership” over Hamish and that it required the mage apprentice for his ability to create dark delirium; it helped the creature sleep and dream, which was its only way to procreate.
Throughout the communication with Xarrombus, there was a continuous whisper of negativity in the subconscious of the heroes; like a draining headache. Despite the troubling influence, the heroes continued.
Probing Xarrombus more, the heroes found that it was a creature that was summoned from the “far realm”, a place beyond the planes that neither Luca nor Emrys had ever heard of. It explained that it was summoned by a vault keeper to act as a guardian for a vault. Over time it broke its chains and took control over the vault it was summoned to guard. More shockingly, it identified Réonan as the vault keeper that summoned it, a celestial of some sort.
The heroes got Xarrombus to explain, in cold and dispassionate terms that it had no interest in the Blood War and only regarded it as a marker that it could prepare to go home. To it, the Blood War signified a weakening of the Seal of Divine Animus, which meant it could set its plans in motion.
At that point Quentin succumbed to the revelations and the constant drone of negativity. He walked through the mist from the kitchen to the scullery, donned his boats and cloak and went out into the pouring rain. The rain felt cleansing, and by the time he got to Queensbridge he paused and looked out over the river. Quentin recognised the description that Vydia gave from her vision. He looked to the west and saw Garamond hill, topped with the palace, and to the east he saw Quayhill, with the Bastion of Illumination atop it; the settlement Vydia had seen was Newport, an early version of Kingsport!
Emrys and Luca had stayed behind with Vydia and Astrid. They had continued to probe the strange entity but learned only one more useful thing; it seemed as if Xarrombus was looking to create agents all over Kingsport and it seemed to the heroes that it was attempting to do so by way of the slugs that they have found. It had attempted to do so with Jeanne, and potentially with Vydia.
Luca and Astrid returned to the Wanderer, while Emrys stayed with Vydia and made sure that she got care at the Temple of Pholtus, where father Devon performed a similar procedure on Vydia as he had done with Jeanne. He presented Emrys with a strange slug which he had retrieved from behind Vydia’s eye.
On the way to the Wanderer Luca decided to visit the Cathedral of the Platinum Father where he spoke to Aurion in the transept of Saint Aureus the Golden One. While communing with his patron he learned, like Quentin did, that the settlement that Vydia saw was Newport. He also learned that Xarrombus’ agents allowed the strange entity to connect to each of them and see through their eyes.
When Quentin came back to the Wanderer earlier that evening he spent time in his room in prayer and contemplation. He asked if this was a trial and if he should continue to guard the threshold. He bared his torso and clutched the feather talisman around his neck. The same black and white feathers that had appeared along his shoulders and upper arms during his initiation ceremony reappeared, but they did not come with an answer. When the feathers withdrew, he continued in solitude the rest of the evening, finding comfort in routinely things like caring for his equipment.
When Emrys finally came back to the Wanderer he was determined to have a heart to heart with Toruviel, and so he retreated to his room to commune with the blade.
As for James…
Most of the day was spent going around town. He started at the Silver Cross, reconnecting with some of his friends and acquaintances that he neglected since meeting the rest of the heroes in the early summer. He continue on through most of the places in Lewisham, both the well-known establishments like the Hoxton, as well as the seedier spots you could only get into if you were connected, or had a filled purse.
Luckily, James was both. He spent lavishly and took his time drinking and gambling, making sure to buy the rounds at the right times and lose a few rounds to the right people. His intention was to find out where the night master was headquartered and be back at the Careless Wanderer in the early evening, perhaps an hour or two after the curfew was erected.
But it did not quite work out that way for James…
Fourth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262
(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon is waning. Darkmoon is waning.)
Early in the morning, just as a pale sun rose over the cloudy eastern horizon, James came home. He tired, drunk and his purse was thin and flat. He had met many interesting and colourful people, some of which would make useful assets in the future. As he shuffled through the tavern of the Careless Wanderer, getting curious looks from some of the patrons and the staff, and stumbled up the stairs to reach his room, he was confident that he had found the whereabouts of the headquarters of the night master; located in the ancient waterways underneath Ravensbourne.