Category: RPG

Mud and Missed Opportunities

Previously, the heroes set sail from Kingsport to Eastray in an attempt to retrieve the rare ghost orchid in order to dispel the wards which had been placed on the khazra head to prevent the curse on queen Isabella from being lifted. They took on a young boy who had been found floating on a raft and prevented some of the passengers and crew from throwing the child overboard for being an ill omen. They arrived in Eastray and said goodbye to captain Lorne and his crew.

First Day, Second Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

Having arrived in the coastal town of Eastray, the heroes made their way to the Hungry Hag, the only tavern in the muddy town which had beds for them. Along the way, they quickly got the measure of Eastray; simple folk who mostly lived off of the trade along the delta; fishing, shrimping, sugarcane and the hides from the large lizards which could be found in the marshy hinterlands.

The inn was a two story building with old, rotting thatch on the roof. The smell of spicy stew wafted towards the heroes as they opened the door and stepped inside. The inside of the inn was painted white in order to maximise the little light which came in through the small, shuttered windows. Decorative patterns of plants had been painted on the walls to cheer the place up. A red brick hearth had a big fire roaring and most people were sitting around the hearth to stay warm and to dry their wet clothes. An enormous crocolisk of almost twenty foot in length hang high along the rafters of the roof, its skin dried and preserved, with its open maw giving a terrifying view of the razorsharp teeth that lined the inside.

Half a dozen locals had gathered and were already drinking and soon Michel had arranged for stew and strong drink, both designed to put fire in your belly. The stew was full of fish and shrimp and lathered with capsicum, while the drink of choice was rum, due to the sugarcane plantations in the area.

For a couple of silver, the heroes got a few rooms and many of them decided to catch up on the sleep they had lost in all the commotion around the young boy. Luca, not as tired as the others, decided to go sight seeing while Michel and Randall were going to make arrangements to travel upriver to a settlement called Rivermeet, situated at the conflux of the Lea tributary coming from the north, and the Ivel river from the south-east. It would be from there that the travel would become a challenge.

The first place Luca went to was the notice board he had spotted when the heroes headed from the harbour to the Hungry Hag. He found a notice about a place that specialised in fortune telling which he decided to seek out. He read a notice that suggested that the Red Custodians of the Monastic Order of St. Catherine had recently arrived in Eastray and were looking for people to help raise a new church on the outskirts of town. He also read that, just like elsewhere, the Cult of the Dark Queen were responsible for several random murders and that everyone was urged to be aware of people with wicked, jewelled daggers. Luca decided to take that notice in order to show it to James so that he could be more careful in showing the daggers he carried. There were another handful of other notices that Luca paid little attention to.

Luca quickly found the Maison de Fortune, the place where he could get his fortune read. It was a large, well-maintained home but he found that Master Beaudelaire, the fortune teller, was not at home. The young woman who came to the door claimed that the old master was probably somewhere in his cups, which reminded Luca of a man he had noticed drinking by himself in the Hungry Hag with a deck of cards in front of him. He decided he’d continue to wander the town for a bit longer before returning to the inn.

During his trip around town he purchased some wooden shoes, which, while excellent to traverse the mud in, were hard to adjust to. It would take him a while before he’d get used to wearing them. Luca noticed the same graffiti that he had noticed in Kingsport, of a caricature of the lord steward fucking a ravenheaded person while holding a wolfheaded person on a leash. It seemed the same discontent that had struck Kingsport had also found its way to Eastray. During his walk he listened to the conversations of the locals in an attempt to study the particular accent of the region.

Luca learned that a curious and mysterious woman had been seen walking around town. She was said to be of exceptional beauty, with long, red, curly hair and an alabaster skin, wearing a rich green dress. Rumours were that she was beguiling and that surely she was a witch. Another rumour he picked up was that a knight had been seen walking around town wearing a shield on his back depicting the banner of house Downwarren. Luca didn’t quite understand what the significance of that was, but it was clear that it made a deep impression on the locals.

When Luca returned to the Hungry Hag he found the old, well-dressed man with the deck of cards still siting and drinking at a table by himself. He introduced himself to the old man, who appeared to have been afflicted by a strong case of cataracts to both eyes and was nearly blind. The man appeared to be quite tipsy, but was willing to tell Luca’s fortune. He introduced himself as Bertrand Beaudelaire and he had a calm but nasal voice. He asked Luca some questions about where he was from and how old he was and what Luca’s aim for the reading would be. Luca wanted to know his long term fortune as well as the short term success for his companions.

Master Beaudelaire then asked Luca to draw three cards from the deck which he had been shuffling with great dexterity. Luca drew three cards. The first one was The Eye and the Hand, a card which depicted an eye being held aloft above a stormy sea by two hands. The man concluded that Luca was a seeker of knowledge in the face of tumultuousness. The second card that Luca drew was The Moon and the Mirror, depicting the Silvermoon in high sanction above a placid lake. The image reminded Luca of the way in which the Silvermoon had reflected off the waters of Lake Llygad. Master Beaudelaire concluded that instead of knowledge, Luca actually sought enlightenment. The last card, The Jewel and the Thief, depicted a man reaching out for a large ruby. Master Beaudelaire asked Luca if he had made a deal in return for knowledge, which was something Luca confirmed. He concluded that Luca was very ambitious and was willing to make dangerous deals in order to be successful. He concluded that he could not divine anything about Luca’s long-term success, but he believed that in the short term Luca and his companions would be successful.

The old man refused payment for the reading and in return Luca arranged to pay for the man’s rum for the rest of his stay. Luca agreed this with a young boy who was working behind the bar. He noticed that the boy had a severely mangled left hand which he could hardly use. It seemed as if he had many of the bones in his hand broken which never healed properly.

When James woke up from his rest and joined Luca, the two decided to spend some time trying to find the szygani encampment which supposedly lay on the outskirts of the south of Eastray. Luca filled James in on the things he had seen and heard in and around Eastray and the two made their way. They found the camp after a slippery and soggy jaunt across town. The szygani seemed to be weary of the two until James drew the attention of a confident and cocky szygani swordsman who wore a rapier at his side. The swordsman introduced himself as Bailuk and asked how he could help the heroes.

When the conversation was over, James had learned that Eastmarsh was the home of the Acadians, a distinct group of people who hardly considered themselves Lyrians. They were weary, insular, xenophobic and superstitious people, not unlike the szygani. The szygani considered themselves travellers, and “people of the path”, the Acadians considered themselves the travellers of the delta. Szygani travelled by vardos, the colourful horse-drawn wagons they lived out of, while the Acadians lived on houseboats. James had also learned that Rivermeet was a trading hub where the hinterland and the coastland connected in trade. Acadian families would come to Rivermeet to trade items from the swamp for items being brought into Eastray from other parts of Lyria.

Returning to the Hungry Hag, James and Luca found that Emrys had struck up a conversation with a familiar face; Oliver, one of the two merchants that the heroes had saved from duplicitous mercenaries just outside of the Inn at the Crossroads. He explained that his brother-in-law, Trent, was still in Kingsport, taking care of the business, while he had just come in from Càrceres with a large shipment of salt, which he had traded here for sugar and rum, which he was intending to bring back to Kingsport the following day. Luca asked if he had any interesting passengers on the ship ride into Eastray, and Oliver explained that he travelled with a strange Mazurian woman of great beauty. The ship had picked her up on a short stop in Dunagore.

It would be Oliver and Trent’s last trade before winter. While he explained that his company was considering investing in iron in order to capitalise on the shorting market with trouble brewing along the northern border with the Daerlan empire as well as the orc invasion throughout the Elder Foothills and the Plains of Strife, James audibly yawned in disinterest. The young man cut his conversation short before departing for his room to turn in for the night.

James briefly spoke to Leonie in order to gather more information on Rivermeet and whether or not he might be able to count on someone to arrange for things when he arrived. Leonie said that she was quite well connected in Eastray, but that she had few reliable connections in the hinterlands of Eastmarsh. While she had been living in Eastray for the better part of her life, she was not native, having come up from Fulham, and as such there were quite a few weary Acadians who still saw her as an outsider. She gave James the name of a man named Marcel, who might be able to help.

Just as Luca and James decided they might want to turn in for the night, the door to the Hungry Hag opened and a woman of surprising beauty walked through the door. The stories they had heard about this mysterious woman all day were confirmed; long, red, curly hair, a heart-shaped face, large green eyes and fine features, clothed in an expensive, green velvet dress with brown leather boots which seemed to have remained mostly clean from the muck of the Eastray streets.

With her entrance came a chill across the remaining patrons at the inn. James and Luca eventually struck up a conversation with her. She claimed to be a noble woman by the name of Lady Azsharastrasza from Mazuria who had travelled to Eastray in search of her “mate”, Laurencjusz, or Lorek for short. Lady “Asha” as she preferred to be called, had been at court in Dom Ludova, the capital of Mazuria, when a charismatic cult leader named Dominik had taken advantage of her “mate” and convinced him to join the cult, which was dedicated to the worship of the Dark Queen. Lady Asha eventually followed a trail of the cult to Dunagore, where she found a member of the cult and managed to find information on where the cult was hiding out, an ancient temple deep in the hinterland of Eastmarsh.

She showed an improvised map and a strange stone statue, which resembled that strange statue that the Sheridans had retrieved from the catacombs underneath their estate; a round, conical statue narrow at the bottom and wider at the top with the engraving of an eye at the top. Lady Asha was lead to believe it would act as a key of some sort to the ancient temple the cult was using as a hideout.

James and Luca tried to work out whether or not they could realistically help Lady Asha out without potentially losing too much time but ended up concluding that this wouldn’t be possible. They also couldn’t convince the strange lady to join them with a promise of tending to her quest on the way back from Blackbough. The ended up saying good night as the heroes prepared to depart early in the morning. As they fell asleep they had a suspicion that it would not be the last time they met Lady Azsharastrasza.

Second Day, Second Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

The following morning the heroes woke up and had a quick breakfast. Michel LeBlanc, the Acadian guide had arranged for travel to Rivermeet on a barge. The weather had remained unchanged, with a continued drizzle and gusts of wind. The Ivel river was broad and muddy and had countless arms of different sizes which all flowed towards Eastray. The further upriver they travelled, the more marshy the area became, with reed and cypress groves lining the river to the point where it become unclear where land stopped and river started. They also saw the large amount of crocolisks and snakes that inhabited the waters and started to wonder what it would be like deeper into the hinterland.

They reached Rivermeet late afternoon. It sat on the conflux of the Lea tributary and the Ivel river and it was a small settlement mostly intended to allow for different Acadian families to come together for trade. Michel spent most of his time trying to arrange for transport further upriver. Due to an absence of inns or other lodgings, the night was spent in the tents that Randall had arranged. Two people to a tent, four tents each, set up around a soggy campfire on top of sheets of treated canvas which kept the ground water from seeping into the tents.

Third Day, Second Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

The following morning Michel was still unable to secure river transport and the conversation lead towards alternatives. James was keen on either paying or stealing a boat, but Michel advised against it, as it would probably meant upsetting the Acadians. Having angry Acadians after them while they were on their soil was probably not advisable. Isalien reckoned that it would be either one day by boat upriver, and another day on foot to Blackbough, or three days on foot, give or take half a day. Eventually, the group decided that setting off from Rivermeet would probably be best and that securing a boat upriver was probably going to take more time than they would gain.

As predicted, the terrain started to change rapidly, with parts of the travel requiring them to wade through waist deep waters. There were several challenges along the way. The first was a large village of aggressive lizardfolk who barred the way. They were primitive, carrying clubs spiked with bone and shields created from large turtle shells, but their numbers were just too great. James successfully plotted a course through the lizardfolk territory by wading through murky waters and sneaking past. It was risky, but it meant avoiding a detour which would have added another half a day of travel to the journey.

Fourth Day, Second Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

The following day the heroes came upon a large Acadian family living on a house boat. They were initially suspicious of the heroes, but Michel, with the help of the heroes, managed to convince them to allow them passage across a marshy lake on their boat. This managed to shave off half a day of travel which was a welcome bit of good luck.

Later that day day, a grove of ancient cypress trees, hung with Carcarian moss. It would be dangerous to travel across the grove since it would force the heroes to wade through murky waters for several hours. The heroes decided to trust Isalien’s keen senses and decided to take the risk rather than add another day of travel to their journey in order to avoid the grove. Luck was on the side of the heroes and they managed to avoid any risky situations with the dangerous wildlife.

Fifth Day, Second Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

Getting closer to the area of Blackbough, the sky turned overcast and a fog settled over the land. Visibility was reduced to about twenty feet or so and travel slowed down. Soon, an eerie glow was seen darting ahead of the heroes through the mist. The source of the glow was unknown, but it seemed to be guiding the heroes through the mist. Calling upon Luca’s knowledge of strange phenomena the heroes decided to trust the light ahead of them in order to keep up the pace and not lose the gains they had made over the last few days.

After a while the eerie notion started to creep up on the heroes. The hairs on the back of their necks started to raise up as they had the feeling that they were being watched. It was at that moment that something horrifying materialised from the fog.

Arrival in Eastray

Previously, the heroes, still reeling from prior Benedict’s sermon, got ready to depart Kingsport, making arrangements to travel to Eastray aboard The Old Queen, together with captain Randall and two guides, Michel and Isalien. While at anchor for the night during a horrible storm, everyone was awoken by Neiman who had spotted a raft with a strange child on it.

First Day, Second Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

In the forward hull, amidst the swaying of the ship, lit only by a lantern, the heroes inspected the corpse of the man that was found on the raft with the young boy. He was disembowelled and likely died from that wound. His intestines had been gnawed upon and it had every appearance that the boy had been responsible for the teeth marks.

A conflict was brewing among the crew and passengers about what to do with the child and everyone with an opinion was turning to captain Lorne to make a decision. One side claimed that the child was an abomination and an ill omen which needed to be cast overboard, while the other side argued that the boy was possibly only guilty of keeping himself alive under extreme circumstances and should be granted clemency.

Emrys could make out that both the man and the boy were wearing clothing commonly worn by people from Fulham. He concluded that both the boy and the man were well off, if not wealthy, a conclusion that James shared after investigating the man and finding that his teeth were in good condition. Eventually Quentin and Astrid, with the blessing of captain Lorne, gave the dead man a seaman’s grave by tossing the body overboard and letting the waves take him.

The young Ridley, who had been particularly disturbed by the young boy, had been hiding close to the entrance to the captain’s quarters. Emrys went to talk to her and discovered that she, like Dyana and Isalien, wanted the captain to cast the boy overboard, while Neiman and Michel were dead set against such barbarism.

After Luca prepared a ritual to investigate the boy magically, attempting to divine whether the boy had been touched by magic in some way, he found no traces. While Astrid was much harsher in her recommendation on what to do with the boy, the rest of the heroes decided that the boy was not guilty of anything deserving such punishment and managed to convince the captain to let the boy live. They recommended that the boy stay locked up in the captain’s quarters, and James and Emrys volunteered to stand watch, in case some of the crew or passengers would try to harm the boy.

When the captain had made his decision and the people on the ship went back to rest, James and Emrys sat together. It didn’t take long before everyone’s rest was once again disturbed; this time by a passenger named Donimir who had gotten up during the night to get a drink of water from the barrels of fresh water, only to keel over and vomit violently. An investigation of the stores of fresh water revealed that all fresh water aboard the ship had spoiled and that strange, eel-like creatures could be seen infesting it. Luca investigated the creatures and concluded that they were not the same as the slug which was retrieved from Jeanne’s headwound. The conclusion was that the water was probably brough aboard from Kingsport and that it was there where it got infected, confirming that the disease was already spreading in the capital.

The rest of the passengers soon discovered that Donimir had passed away. James, who had not left his spot in front of the door of the captain’s quarters, confirmed that the boy was still inside. The captain ordered the water to be thrown overboard. It was another few hours until dawn and people tried to get the rest they could. At dawn, anchor was drawn and the travel to Eastray was resumed.

The approach to Eastray seemed like a laborious affair as the ship had to navigate between reefs and sandbanks. As the ship came closer to the shore and the town it appeared that it was settled on a hillock with two muddy rivers on either side of it. In the brackish water along the shore low mangroves blurred the lines of where water began and land ended. The harbour was situated in a small bay, protected by a well-constructed earthen wall, supported by wood and stones. Once the ship had cast its ropes and released the gangplank, Emrys decided to quickly rush ahead and make a show of his arrival, allowing the crew to take the body of Donimir offboard.

Captain Lorne had arranged for someone to take care of the boy. A plain-faced woman in her late years, with big hips and strong arms came and introduced herself to James as Leonie. She was accompanied by a string of children and James was told she ran the Hungry Hag, an inn that provided work for local orphans. The boy would be put to work and hopefully earn himself a dry and warm place to sleep. James, curious about the woman, tested her understanding of the cant of the underworld and he was not surprised to see that she understood James’ codes and doublespeak.

Eastray turned out to be a miserable town compared to Kingsport or Bournemouth. It consisted mostly of wooden buildings built on sturdy poles which had been driven deep into the soggy ground to give them some foundation. The wood was treated with a coat of black tar paint to treat it against rot. The only stone which was used was red bricks, used for chimneys, created in furnaces on the edge of town. The tar-black wood, red bricks and mostly thatched roofs set Eastray even further apart from other Lyrian cities.

None of the streets were paved; a thick dark muck pervaded every road and lane. Logs had been sunken in the deep mud in order to provide some stability, and in many places small bridgeways had been created between the porches that were common around every building, each of them elevated by the same poles that elevated the houses. Pigs, chickens, geese and goats rooted around in the muck in pens and coops behind the small houses, and it seemed that the mud was so pervasive that everyone was used to it, or soon would be.

A Curious Child

Previously, the heroes spent time recovering from their ordeal in the carceratum. The heroes had decided they would want to leave the city as soon as possible and had decided to look for transportation to Eastray. James did not have much luck in convincing any of the ships at the docks to depart before the annual fishing competition started, but his luck changed when he noticed the familiar sails of the Old Queen sailing into port. The caravel had been chartered for transportation by Randall, and after some consideration could move its departure time up to the early evening.

This gave the heroes enough time to attend the much advertised sermon by prior Benedict at the Cathedral of the Platinum Father. The heroes had been invited at the request of prior Benedict to be lord Lothar Grey’s guests of honour. When they attended, the cathedral was packed to the rafters with the powerful, wealthy and influential. When the prior finally spoke he delivered a brutal conviction of how the church had strayed from Paladine. All the while, Luca saw that his patron was fuelling the prior’s words, allowing it to end in a dramatic crescendo where the prior sundered the alter in front of him in two, leaving his audience stunned as he marched out of the cathedral.

Tenth Day, First Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

As the prior left the cathedral with Adelard, his assistant, he left a stunned audience together with the sundered altar in his wake. As the impact of what happened and what the prior had said started to sink in, people started to become restless; first whispering questions to one another, exchanging worried looks, and later questioning and debating what was said, while some people began to panic and sob as their faith was shaken. The packed cathedral slowly started to become more rowdy as some people wanted to depart as fast as possible, being hustled to the exit by their guards.

Quentin, observing the situation, noted that most of the higher clergy were quick to put a positive spin on the situation; being more concerned with the reputation of the church rather than the theological implications of the prior’s words. The more junior clerics, however, seemed more effected by what had occurred and what was said. Luca felt as confused about his master’s involvement in what happened as some of the audience had been at the prior’s words and felt a need to leave the cathedral. He was helped by Quentin and Emrys and they quickly caught up with James who had made his way to the exit early on, and had been watching the confusion unfold from the safety of a small alcove between two angelic statues near the door.

The plan was to return to the Careless Wanderer in order to regroup. While enjoying a stiff drink, James found that Randall had taken care of many of the supplies that would be needed on their expedition into Eastmarsh; tents, sleeping bags and rations. That left James with only one thing to take care of; speaking to Wojciech the stablemaster in order to have him bring the horses to the Sheridan estate for his mother to take care of. He found that the stablemaster was willing, but could not be convinced to stay away from the city for longer than the assignment would take him. He took six silver stags as payment and agreed to bring the horses, while storing Luca’s cart in the alley next to the inn.

While James went to purchase an excessive mix of over two dozen bottles of wine and spirits from Durham, paying with one of the gemstones he’d recovered from the Reaverhaunt caves, Quentin said to the others at the table that he had never seen such a naked display of power before. With a sermon that did not last more than a few short minutes, the prior had shaken the very bedrock of the church of Paladine.

Luca was tired and still frustrated with the unexplained intervention from his master, so decided to forget his worries by going up to the room and studying the arcane scroll he had found on the skaven shaman’s body. He found that Astrid was resting in her cot and he urged her to sleep on the bed, arguing that as of tomorrow they’d likely be sleeping in the cold and wet. She did as he suggested while he researched the scroll. He found that the scroll contained within it the one-time use of a necromantic spell which would allow his touch to inflict a variety of awful diseases.

With a little bit of time left before the departure to Eastray onboard the Old Queen, Quentin decided to make his way to the Sacred Baths in order to speak to Emma. The priestess received him in her private chambers and Quentin shared what had happened at the cathedral. A quasi-theological discussion about the difference between unity and uniformity lead the two to talk about Muirgheal and Emma explained that she found that the attitude of the weapon, or the spirit therein was antithetical to her own. While it worshiped the aquatic gods, it seemed to be more aligned to the Father of the Deep, whose domain was the salt and the sea. This deity was often hostile to the life that Sedna nourishes. She found Muirgheal dogmatic and militant.

Quentin decided to try something unusual; he took out his sword and rang the flat of the blade against the stone walls of Emma’s chamber until the blade strong a harmonic vibration. He held the blade against Muirgheal and closed his eyes. He saw a stormy bay with dangerous and choppy water. Across the water a man with a booming voice yelled at him to convert or be drowned at the bottom of the bay. Shocked, Quentin broke off contact and said how worried he was at the strength of the artifact’s zeal. Emma shared that she did not trust anything from the Age of Fear; neither the Arms of the Senhadrim, nor the Crusaders that they liberated. They possessed a magical potency that the world was not ready for yet.

Quentin asked Emma for a favour; whether he would be able to borrow the stone that she had carried throughout their adventure into the Riverlands together. He knew that it possessed certain properties that would protect someone from disease, and he was keen to have it by his side going forward. Unfortunately, Emma had to disappoint him and say that she had returned the stone to Ser Benten, who lent it to her when she had fallen ill to the disease from the skaven when they first encountered them, all those months ago.

Before Quentin departed to head back to the Careless Wanderer, he asked whether Emma would be willing to come and bless the Old Queen, the familiar boat that he would sail to Eastray. She agreed to meet him at the docks before departure.

When the heroes were ready to depart the Careless Wanderer, Luca settled the score of their expenses with Lauryn and had to pay nearly fifty gold crowns for their stay. The staff at the inn wished them a good voyage and a safe return to Kingsport and the heroes departed for the docks. They found the Old Queen was quickly getting ready to depart, with several fishermen coming aboard to share in the journey to Eastray. Randall embarked together with Michel, the Acadian mercenary and Isalien, the aen cannell tracker whom the heroes had met earlier that day. They would be their guide on the voyage to Blackbough.

Emma and Dagmær of Hammerstrand, the cleric who ran the Sacred Baths, performed a short ritual which blessed the ship, much to the delight of captain Lorne and Ridley. Roddy, the bosun who was to stay in Kingsport for the fishing competition said his goodbyes and the crew cast off. A new crew member was introduced to the heroes; Dyana Wavesinger, a bare-footed elf with brown, braided hair decorated with seashells.

While James and Luca took shelter below the forward deck and shared a stiff drink, Ridley came to say hello. Much to Luca’s surprise she produced the crystal flower which he had given to her upon their goodbye at Blackbridge, months ago. The small magic trick was supposed to have dissipated within an hour, but had persisted. Not only that, the flower had grown considerably and its facets had grown in scintillating radiance. With another display of arcane power, Luca injected the flower with a vibrant colour, further delighting the young girl.

The two heroes spoke on the rise in the potency of magic, which in turn lead James to turn his attention to the way in which the Arms of the Senhadrim were influencing and sometimes possessing their wielders. He had seen how Toruviel had taken over Emrys, and he also revealed that he knew that Blackstar was driving Luca to deeds of questionable morality. The first time he had seen it was when Luca had consumed Kalindras Duskstrider’s life outside of Syldarael’s home in Allenham. He had seen Luca do it since and knew how to recognise it. Luca retorted that Blackstar was only interested in consuming the right souls, so as not to strengthen the wrong side in the war to come.

As the caravel set sail across the gulf towards Eastray it soon grew very dark. The weather had been foul for several days and there was no point in staying on deck for it. People started to retire to several hammocks below decks, which also helped in keeping their stomachs settled.

First Day, Second Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

In the middle of the night, while the caravel lay at anchor, an alarm rang out. It turned out that Neiman, who had kept watch, had spotted something far off the bow of the ship. Over the howling wind a young voice could be heard crying for help. It turned out to be the voice of a young boy who was stuck on a devastated boat together with the corpse of a man.

The crew took a sloop out to rescue the boy and bring him back aboard the caravel. When he was examined he turned out to be unhurt, despite his face and chest being covered in blood. He was perhaps seven or eight years old, dressed in simple, but well-made clothing. He had well-cropped, blonde hair and wore no shoes. He had no items on him.

When questioned, the boy could not remember his name, nor how he came to be on the boat, or who the dead man was. When Luca heard that the dead man had what looked like a gruesome injury on his abdomen, he took the opportunity to step away from the group of people and whisk himself through the portal to the boat to retrieve the dead man. Upon return he examined the body and found that the wound on the abdomen was jagged and that his intestines and flesh around the wound had been gnawed on. As if by teeth from a young child.

A Firebrand Sermon

Previously, the heroes managed to fight their way through the horde of skaven they found skulking about the ancient waterways underneath Kingsport. In doing so they managed to liberate the rebel lords from the carceratum, allowing lady Annabella and lady commander Miranda to make good on their promise to keep them safe while hostage to the crown.

James was unhappy about the way in which the situation in the carceratum was resolved, for many reasons. There were many casualties that could have been prevented, and he was looking for ways in which to karmically right the balance. In the meantime the group was invited to a special sermon being held by prior Benedict at the Cathedral of the Platinum Father, while the heroes only had a speedy departure from the city on their mind.

Tenth Day, First Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

While Quentin took Astrid to the Sacred Baths of Sedna in order to get Astrid patched up, James was going up and down the docks, speaking to captains and deckmasters in order to arrange for passage to Eastray.

Luca and Emrys went to the Temple of Light to find out whether they could purchase some more of father Devon’s healing ointment. When the good father refused to sell the heroes any more of the ointment, claiming it would take away from the ability of the clinic to care for those in need. It almost seemed as if if the old man had been forewarned of the doom that was coming to the city. The pair decided to go to Ecgbrith the Kaedwyni herbalist instead, but not before tithing to the temple.

A conversation with the Kaedwyni revealed that the magical healing potions were not only in short supply, they were also very expensive. A deal was struck whereby the heroes would purchase three healing potions for half the gold crowns it normally took, provided they would return with one of the fabled ghost orchids. Earlier the Kaedwyni had sold Luca a herbalist kit after all. If the heroes would not be able to secure themselves a ghost orchid to return to the herbalist, they would pay the other half of the coin instead.

All this while, James waited patiently for the Old Queen to come into port and cast its ropes to one of the piers. He noticed several familiar faces while he waited for several passengers to disembark; Neiman, the handsome blonde bosun, Ridley, the tomboy deckswab, and Lorne, the barrel chested captain with the ugly scar across his face. When James came aboard he spoke with Neiman who instructed the captain of James’ arrival. The captain invited James into his cabin, out of the pouring rain. James shared some of the plum brandy he had traded with the Szygani in Pinefall with the captain.

James came right out of the gate; what would it take to charter the Old Queen for a trip to Eastray as soon as possible. Captain Lorne said he had already come to an arrangement with another to head to Eastray on the morning of the next day. James correctly guessed that the other was captain Randall and revealed that he was to be on board the next day as part of Randall’s expedition. Still, he would like to move up the departure time as much as possible.

Captain Lorne was willing to depart earlier provided that Randall would agree and he had a chance to resupply the ship before departure. This would mean a late afternoon departure from Kingsport, with an early evening arrival in Eastray if all went well. The two agreed to head to the Careless Wanderer and speak to Randall and get his agreement.

When James departed the cabin he found that both Ridley and Neiman were eavesdropping at the door. Ridley was genuinely happy to see James and glad that they would likely be traveling together again. When James departed, he did so together with Roddy, the friendly, plain-faced bosun; he was disembarking together with his fishing equipment, looking to get hired onto one of the teams entering the competition like he had done every previous year. The Old Queen would come to pick him up at the end of the competition and he would rejoin the crew.

On the way back from the herbalists, Luca and Emrys decided to visit the Ravensbourne estate to visit the lady captain. Miranda received them in the hall of the manor. She seemed cagey about talking openly about the rebel lords and both the heroes picked up on the quick enough to hopefully avoid suspicion from any of the servants in the vicinity. Instead, Luca shared with Miranda a copy of the translation of the missive that he had found on the skaven shaman’s body, penned and signed by Epidemius. Miranda suggested the two report their findings to lady Annabella instead. They would be able to find her by presenting themselves to lieutenant William of Eastwarren at the palace crownsguard barracks.

When the two heroes arrived at the palace they were soaked through. Lieutenant WIlliam was dressed in full ceremonial armour and explained that he had been invited to the sermon which was being held at the cathedral. It was at this point that Luca explained to Emrys that the heroes had received an invitation to that event as guests of honour. Emrys was disappointed to hear about the event so late and expressed a strong desire to attend. Considering his special relationship to prior Benedict it made sense to Luca make good on the invitation.

After using some minor magics to clean and tidy themselves up the heroes were brought to the handmaid’s quarters, sited right next door to where the queen was laying in torpor, watched over by Dr. Arkenward. After a casual inspection of the handmaid’s antechamber and some more magic to obfuscate the conversation, the pair informed lady Annabella of the fate of the two rebel lords.

Lady Annabella appeared quite interested in the skaven and their goals, asking the heroes to speculate on why the skaven may have been down in the waterways underneath the city. The heroes hypothesised that it was likely in order to find more of the 144 Arms of the Senhadrim. Annabella confirmed the rewards for the heroes’ efforts; James got a letter of credentials, Luca had been registered as a Baronet of Evenshade Hall, Astrid was gifted a writ of credit with the Silver Bank worth 150 gold crowns. Emrys got a deep and passionate kiss from the lady for his effort in liberating the rebel lords.

When all had returned to the Careless Wanderer and it was decided that the Old Queen would set sail for Eastray later that day at the last tide. Some decisions would need to be made about the horses and Luca’s cart and about some of the things that the heroes might want to leave behind, but first the heroes decided to go and attend the sermon while Astrid remained in the room to rest.

Arriving in the miserable weather at the cathedral, it was a very busy affair. Many carriages of wealthy and influential people were pulling up to the marble steps leading up to the elaborately carved entrance door beneath the large, stained glass façade. Merchants, magistrates and nobility were all accompanied by guards, impatiently shuffling through the doors to get inside and out of the rain.

Inside, along the entire length of the nave, on either side of the aisle, from the entrance until the altar, stood wooden pews filled with people. On either side of the pews were pillared galleries where the escort of the guests were standing. The heroes were met by lord Lothar Grey, whom had been the one to invite them. He stood next to his older brother, lord Bishop Aldred Grey, who was dressed in opulent white robes, decorated with silver thread. On his head he wore a mitre adorned by rubies and sapphires. He held an equally ostentatious sceptre in his hand.

The heroes took a seat in one of the front pews on the right side of the aisle and took a moment to take in the splendour of the cathedral. The altar stood in the middle of the transept, separating the two minor chapels from one another, as well as the nave and the major chapel. The minor chapels were dedicated to Saint Catherine and Saint Aureus, while the major chapel was dedicated to Paladine himself. High above, the vaulted ceilings were richly painted with famous scenes from scripture. The vaults were connected with flying buttresses on the outside of the building, which could be made out through stained glass windows depicting angels and saints.

The lord steward could be seen on the other side of the aisle, sitting together with princess Mildred, surrounded by crownsguard. Lords and ladies, mages, merchants and magistrates; each was waiting with bated breath. When the ceremony first got underway, a choir started sitting while the lord bishop and several cardinals performed a ceremony of praise. Afterwards, prior Benedict was introduced and the tale of the crusaders was told, as well as the part that the Heroes of the White Eye played, pointing the heroes out to the crowd.

When prior Benedict came out he was dressed in full, ceremonial regalia. The blue lapis lazuli on his armour sparkled and shone. Adelard the young priest stood at his side and patiently translated each of the prior’s words, making sure to catch every inflection, every emphasis and every bit of passion.

When the Heroes of the White Eye liberated us from Hell and for the first time in countless cycles we dared to hope, we wondered how the world had changed since we became incarcerated. Some of us spoke amongst each other and fantasised how the divine might of Paladine had wrought the world and prepared it for the new cycle. How had Paladine’s followers explored the scriptures and had deepened their devotion?

I was shocked and horrified when I first looked upon the scriptures; copied and rewritten so many times that they are barely recognisable for what they once were. Instead of focusing on Paladine’s laws, it has introduced ambiguity, leaving His flock to interpret scripture according to what they consider convenient; picking and choosing what to care about and what is righteous. Religious relativism opened the door to entropy, to disorder… to chaos.

At this point, Luca started to notice a familiar, dark disturbance around the periphery of his vision. He felt more than he saw an inky black cloud descend down from one of the minor chapels.

Spreading the faith became more important than obedience. With obedience comes sacrifice; with faith comes a tithe. Those in positions of power have cloaked themselves in faith for personal reasons. Instead of sacrifice they seek profit. The Ecclesiastes are complicit to this piety for pay, as they reap monetary rewards that allow them to build splendour in this life and forego the splendour they could obtain in the next life. Tithing benefits the corrupt. Paladine does not want your coin. Only your obedience.

The horrors that lay beyond the veil are pure chaos. It will tempt you to stray from the path of lawfulness. It will tempt you to abandon Him as the object of your devotion. For the first crime death is merely a just retribution. The second is a heresy so terrible that no punishment can be sufficient.

And I see a lot of people who have strayed from the path, only seeking power and riches. They bicker, fight and wage war upon another, sowing chaos and discord, rather than unity and harmony. These people, these selfish goals are the chinks in the armour against the demonic onslaught that awaits you if you do not unite under the protections of Paladine’s divine law.

Luca saw the darkness grow and Aurion materialise from it, slowly descending down on prior Benedict. He managed to look inside his master’s hood and for the first time he saw six pairs of eyes burning hungrily in that dark void.

I quote:

“When people forget their duty they are no longer human; they are less than beasts. They have no place in the bosom of humanity, nor at the top of Celestia, nor in the heart of the Platinum Father. Let them be forgotten.” – Catechism of Aureus the Golden One, Book 1, Chapter 3, Verse 17

…before it was removed from scripture.

Quote:

”I tread the path of lawfulness. Though it paved with sharp stones, I will walk it barefoot; though it crosses rivers of fire, I will pass over them; though it wanders through the dark, the light of Paladine guides my steps,” from the Gathalamor’s sermon on the road to Blue Harbour before engaging Barazod the Fiery Dread.

…again, removed from scripture.

You are sheep being lead to the slaughter, kept blind by the greed and selfishness of people who have embraced entropy. Saint Catherine of Dunagore, whom you hold so dear, once told me that it takes but one to start a landslide with the casting of a single pebble…

It was at that point that the gleeful burning of Aurion’s six eyes reached a height. Luca saw as his master put one arm around the prior, while the other arm drew one of the wicked scythes and raised it high overhead.

Luca panicked and was afraid that his patron was going to do something terrible to the prior.

Everyone saw the prior raise his arm and slam a single pebble down on the marble alter. At that moment, Aurion sliced the air in front of him with his scythe. There was a moment of silence as people struggled to see what the prior had placed on the alter. Then a rumble and a sudden crack which echoed through the cathedral, as the alter sundered in two.

Prior Benedict jumped down from the dais and marched down the isle with Adelard in tow. Reaching the door the prior met James, who had tried to make a swift exit. The prior turned to the young elf and said “thank you” in broken Lyrian, before leaving out into the pouring rain.

The Heroes of the White Eye: A Character Study

Introduction

The Heroes of the White Eye is a remarkable group of individuals, brought together by fate, who have overcome incredible challenges together against all odds. Initially the disparate individuals were thrown together to resolve a simple matter of a disrupted water supply on the estate of an enigmatic noble family, they went on to discover signs and portents of a new time of high magic, and with it a new start of a Conjunction of Planes.

The last conjunction was so long ago that only the very oldest surviving members of the longest living races could recall it. It was a time in which the fabric between realms became thin and demonic creatures spilled over to wreak havoc on the lands of men, elves and dwarves. It was called the Age of Fear, and it brought humanity on the brink of extinction before they harnessed the power of magic, allowing them to mount a defence against the hordes of demons. The Silver Crusade, a collaboration of the knightly orders of the Lance, Shield and Gryphon, counselled by the mysterious Senhadrim, a loose knit group of wizards and priests, defended humanity long enough for the conjunction come to an end and the last of the demons be defeated.

The heroes discovered powerful, ancient artifacts from the Age of Fear, each of which contained the long dormant spirit of one of the Senhadrim. They encountered strange servitor creatures called the skaven, a fierce, rat-like people whose purpose was to find these artifacts and bring them to their as of yet unknown masters.

The heroes travelled the kingdom of Lyria, finding clues about the conjunction, the crusade and the Senhadrim. They met interesting people and dangerous adversaries; Vadoma, the treacherous gypsy, Falka, the helpful scholar, Ulrikke, the Daerland noble, Ridley, the endearing deckswab, Syldarael, the tolerant healer, Martha, the jealous bigot, Strickland, the love-struck Magister, Cendelius, the vengeful terrorist, Liliana, the seductive instigator, and many, many more.

They travelled to a different realm and found a small army of crusaders, betrayed by a Senhadrim mage named Atilesceon, who had been corrupted by evil. Atilesceon’s cruelty lead him to curse the crusaders to replay a doomed battle scenario against a horde of demons over and over, leading to their eternal suffering. When the heroes found a way to break the curse, they ended up confronting and defeating Atilesceon and bringing the crusaders back from that realm, instantly gaining them the status of heroes.

In liberating these ancient crusaders and bringing them to the modern time, they managed to gain an understanding of the Age of Fear and learned that the conjunction occurred due to the waxing and waning of magic, which influenced the Seal of Divine Animus, which protected the realms of the ethereal mist from the realms of the elemental chaos and the astral sea. The seal was placed there by Tharizdun, a long lost god with a complicated mythology.

Throughout all of this, the heroes have remained unlikely companions. As they’ve learned more at what’s at stake, uncovering the legends, and separating fact from fiction, they’ve tried to discover possible ways of preventing another Age of Fear, or at least mobilising a defence against the coming conjunction before it is too late. Each has their own reasons for dedicating themselves, and their methods, motivations and styles differ wildly, but for now they continue to be bound to one another.

Astrid

It’s not easy to come to a clear understanding of Astrid’s personality, goals and motives. At the best of times she comes across as aloof or frivolous as her pendulum swings from long periods of silence, having few outspoken opinions or strong desires, and moments of extreme exuberance, often fuelled by alcohol. In the quiet moments she is as calm, quiet and reserved as she is loud, boisterous and borderline obnoxious in the moments where she’s not.

The two extremes of her mood seems to serve one thing particularly well; she is never requested or expected to talk about herself. As a result, it’s not clear why Astrid is in Lyria, why she has chosen to attach herself to the other heroes or why she eagerly sacrifices her own safety in order to step between the group and the danger which is heading their direction.

Even when she woke up one day to find that her eyes had turned bright golden, she never seemed to invite the other heroes to dare question or comment on that physical transformation; her aloof response making it seemingly difficult to bring up the subject. She is well-respected for her physical abilities, but is rarely asked for her opinion, which may reinforce a pre-existing notion she may have held that she would never be valued for her ideas, should she have any.

Her goals seem simple; she wants to be able to purchase a ship of her own. What she wants to do with that ship, or why she wants a ship, is not something her companions have ever asked her. She seems happy enough hiding behind the tired stereotype of a reaving Hellmarker to attempt to convince any of her companions that there’s more to her goals than that.

Emma

The priestess has defied expectations since she was a young girl and continued that tradition from the moment she went into the service of Lord Marcus together with the rest of the heroes. She chose a more thoughtful, less action-prone approach to problem solving which often clashed with others, especially James. That was not to say that she could not be forced into action, however, as she was quick to display against the Procyon when Cendelius lead them in his attack on the village of Allenham. She showed that she would not shy away from violence in order to stand up for what she believed in.

Thoughtful and observant, she was often very capable of quickly getting to the core of a person; sometimes so fast that the person under scrutiny had a hard time catching up, or even realise their façade had been breached. I believe that this lead to the frequent conflicts Emma had with James, who tried very hard to reinforce the cool exterior he had developed growing up on the Kingsport streets. Emma seemed frustrated and genuinely perplexed each time she was confronted with social subterfuge or obfuscation. It seemed to run counter to the truth she wanted to live by. Either that, or despite her keen insight into the people around her, she never truly understood people and found their idiosyncrasies foreign and alien.

She found comfort in the variety of ways in which Sedna touched life around her. The hopeful rebirth of spring, the growth it provided in summer, the way autumn brought the cycle to a close with a great cleansing and the way in which winter became harsh, cold and unforgiving. And it was this variability in the Goddess which made her naturally distrustful of Muirgheal when she started to explore her connection to the trident; it was extreme, unyielding and dogmatic and it ran completely counter to Emma’s own personality and who she understood Sedna to be.

There were other forces surrounding the trident which she found invasive and had difficulty understanding, again frustrating her ability to quickly get to the heart of a person or situation that she was so accustomed to. While evocative, the trident came with too many strings attached and she soon decided to disinvest her from the weapon and the spirit within.

As she divorced herself from the trident she also found that she struggled with many of the things that she and the other Heroes of the White Eye uncovered; about the nature of the world, the coming Age of Fear and her position therein. She decided to divorce herself from the group, focus herself on her faith and evaluate what her position within the grand order of things was going to be moving forward.

Emrys

Either Emrys is the most complex character in our group of heroes, or he is the simplest. At the risk of overthinking things, I will assume the former, rather than the latter. It is going to be difficult to start the analysis, either way.

Born into a tribe of aen adhar, or People of the Moon, who are notoriously religious, both his father, Fingir, an aen adhar, as well as his mother, Catriona, a human who had estranged from her family, had fallen in with a type of religious zealotry that could consume a person. They followed the teachings of Mohiam, a Sehanine Moonbow prophet and believed that their tribe had an important role to play in the future of the Verdant Kingdoms.

In fact, both parents believed that Emrys was to be a child of prophecy, which would explain his name. In the elder speech, Emrys means “immortal one”; a name not given frivolously, I imagine. When Catriona died right after giving birth, against all expectation, Fingir was struck with enormous grief leading him to defer the rearing of Emrys to the rest of the tribe.

Subjected to the tribe’s zealotry, Emrys proved to be a less than ideal student. He was subjected to hours of training which he described as arduous. The spiritual leader of the tribe, an elf named Voriel, disappeared without a trace during a training session and the tribe was thrown in disarray. It wasn’t the first time that strange things happened around Emrys and he was quickly asked to leave as the tribe had given up believing that he Emrys was going to be the promised child that they were awaiting.

I tell you that in order to conclude the following; considering Emrys’ background and upbringing, which I think was likely to be considerably harder than he has ever shared with anyone, it is surprising that he has maintained such a happy-go-lucky, laissez-faire attitude to most things. He has either leveraged what must undoubtedly have been a very traumatic upbringing into an amazing psychological bedrock, or he is possibly the most ruthless case of psychopathy that I’ve ever witnessed.

He has womanised his way through most of the Riverlands and has been keen to continue that habit while in Kingsport. He has developed a penchant for the young daughters of nobility and has left quite a bit of carnage in his wake. One wonders whether he doesn’t find some perverse pleasure in using the station of these women for his own ends only to compromise them to the point of reputational ruin. His involvement with these women has assured that they will never ascend to the position that was expected of them at birth.

Does that sound familiar?

He has now been able to infect the heart and mind of one of the most influential young noble women in the kingdom. Gods give her the strength to withstand him.

When confronted with some of the origins of his tribe by meeting Lauriel Skycaller, the Senhadrim priestess, Mohiam cultist and self-confessed mother of the zealotry that has ruled his tribe for millennia, he seemed detached and distant from her. Even as he inhabited the body of her lover and soon-to-be husband, Benedict McAllister, he did not hesitate to send Lauriel into the woods to slow down the onslaught of demons portalling onto the battlefield and ultimately sending her to her death.

Of course, I might be completely misreading him. One thing that suggests that I might be wrong is the relationship he has built up with Toruviel, the Senhadrim who is inhabiting the moonblade he carries. Legends say that moonblades only graces the hands of those who stand for noble elven virtues; love, life, creation and the arts. Perhaps he has been able to fool Toruviel as he has fooled lady Annabella, who knows?

James

To most people looking in from the outside it would seem that James wears his membership to one of the Heroes of the White Eye with the least amount of pride. I find myself wondering whether that’s because he thinks that what he did isn’t worthy of hero worship, or whether he is uncomfortable with the idea that he’s becoming one of them.

To most people looking in from the outside it would seem like James had a pretty tough childhood growing up on the streets of Kingsport. The frail, half-elf bastard to an immigrant who sold her body for silver stags, raised among whores and ruffians. But once you get to know him you’ll realise that despite his environment, his upbringing in no way held him back from having a happy childhood. He cares deeply for a mother who probably hasn’t always had the time to properly care for him; he’s developed relationships with several men in his life that could be described as father/son or teacher/student relationships; and despite his slight stature and elven heritage, he’s managed to carve out a place among his community.

And yet, he seems to be having trouble accepting the relationships that he’s forged with the rest of the heroes. I’d wager he thinks Luca is deranged, Quentin is misguided and Emrys is unfocused. Astrid seems to be the only one he genuinely cares for, but mostly as a drinking buddy who doesn’t ask too many questions. He purposefully keeps himself from investing in his relationships with the others, either because he doesn’t think they’re worth it, or he thinks they won’t last.

The proposition of him not thinking the relationships with the others aren’t worth it seems flawed considering all that they’ve accomplished together. It is clear that his continued involvement with the rest of the Heroes of the White Eye is benefiting him and that they have a lot to offer him. So it must be that he feels that the relationships won’t last. He’s unwilling to commit because he knows that all of them are regularly engaging in very dangerous work which will likely get one or all of them killed. Does he want to keep his relationships “professional” so that he won’t have to deal with the likelihood of losing them?

It would explain James’ caution at accepting the Arms of the Senhadrim. He has seen that the weapons have subtly changed their wielders and he doesn’t like the idea of giving up control, even if the potential power gain is significant. This, in turn, would explain his disdain for Emma and her dedication to a higher power; arbitrary rules of a divine kind which promise an undisclosed reward after death just mean you’re a pawn in a celestial army, controlled by a deity that sets the rules. Equally, Quentin is hostage to the trappings and expectations of nobility and chivalry, which might even be worse. And Luca is the pawn of… who knows what, but practically no different than Emma and her goddess, though likely much less benevolent.

James values his freedom. The Steady Hand gave him that freedom at the cost of the kickbacks he was paying to the day master. When his mother became an unwilling pawn of the Cult of the Dark Queen and was manipulated to turn against the Steady Hand, he found himself at odds with the guild. Despite finding a way out of the situation and saving his mother’s life in the process, he found that the Steady Hand was never again going to be the home for him it had been in years past. He also found that his mother required care, which had never happened before. She became a burden and perhaps even a liability, which eroded the freedom he valued so much. He quickly found another place that would take her off his hands, leaving him once again unburdened.

Perhaps that’s why he like Astrid as much as he does; there’s no burden there.

At the moment I think James is probably feeling a little unmoored. He has no clear goal, no clear direction. He can’t go back to burglary; he’s come too far and seen too much for that. But he also doesn’t necessarily want to make a habit out of going on quests and gathering more titles like the Hero of the White Eye. He’s stuck between longing for a simpler existence and a duty to act on those things that’s he’s learned.

Luca

Luca considers himself to be many things that he probably is not.

He grew up the son of pig farmers who was gifted with a great intellect, a strong personality but without the strength of willpower to persevere. I suspect he became profoundly lonely in the Elder Foothills, unable to connect to his family or his community and started admiring the scholars that would come through from civilised places, on their way to study the ancient ruins in the region. He probably had a conversation with one of them as an expedition passed through and realised he could connect with them on an intellectual level.

And so he started reading more books. He got obsessed with them. He started considering himself a scholar, and he could have become one if he had applied himself well, but he never did. As he read more he also became more frustrated with his modest origin. He changed the way he dressed, changed the way he spoke, changed the way he acted, all to be more in line with who he wanted to be.

Supposedly in order to get access to more books he was convinced to consume mushrooms which he claims to have given him visions. Those visions showed him a dreadful glimpse of the future, one that he could prevent from occurring. It lead him to the discovery of a book which taught him how to use magic. The circumstances are all a little vague, but afterwards he was no longer a scholar, instead he was a mage.

He finally worked up the nerve to leave the Elder Foothills and I think that cutting ties with that environment which reminded him of who he was allowed him the freedom to tell anyone that he was who he wanted to be. He has also started gathering and gaining more magical power, still maintaining this fantasy that he’s a studious mage. All the while, he’s been taking shortcuts and compromising himself (and possibly others) to gather that power, as is the tendency of those weak of will.

He’s been lying to others, but more importantly he’s been lying to himself; he’s convinced that he’s the only one who realises what is coming and the only one who can stop it. Another lie that he’s told himself is that the ends justify the means, and as such he has made some dangerous and questionable decisions lately. All for the greater good.

I’ve been surprised at the way that the rest of Luca’s companions have been willing to overlook the obvious problems and delusions he’s dealing with. Perhaps they realise but find that the power he wields useful, however ill-gained it may be, and are willing to put up with him.

Eventually, Luca will have to pay the price for what the choices he’s made, the things dhe’s done and the power he’s gained.

Quentin

The most junior member of the Heroes of the White Eye, the easiest observation to make about Quentin is that his noble birth has afforded him a life of relative luxury and privilege. It makes him a bit out of touch with the rest of the heroes at times, but it also allows him a different perspective and avenue that the others may have missed.

Hailing from a small noble family without much political or financial influence, it seems the precarious position that House Morvrayne finds itself in has placed an extraordinary burden on the shoulders of its heir. Initially setting out to find a legendary sword of incalculable historical and cultural value which would earn him the right to marry the daughter of an influential noble and positioning his house in a much better spot in the Beauclair peerage.

When, against all odds, that seemingly impossible quest turned out favourably and he didn’t just retrieve the legendary sword, but also became one of the Heroes of the White Eye, gaining popularity and renown in Lyria, the young knight seemed eager to leverage that success into something more. He is keen on following in the footsteps of the legendary knights and cavaliers who joined the crusade to protect humanity during the Age of Fear.

Whether Quentin’s new goal of restarting a new crusade is born from opportunism or idealism are unclear to me at the moment. But for now it seems he has thrown his lot in with the rest of the companions.

He respects James, though is having a hard time relating to him due to the wildly different environs they grew up in. He has big plans that James doesn’t recognise his roll in, and probably wouldn’t approve of that roll even if he did. James disapproves of much of what Quentin does and thinks, and I suspect it won’t be long before Quentin falls prey to the same exhaustion that overwhelmed Emma.

Up until the moment that Emrys introduced Quentin to Andrew Selkirk, the troubadour who came to investigate the rumours of Fleur’s resurfacing, I don’t think Quentin had any strong opinions of Emrys, positive or negative. The two have never held a conversation that wasn’t about pleasantries or frivolities. Quentin has confessed his ambition of a new crusade to Emrys, and found that Emrys was keen on being there to support him. This will likely remain the basis for their friendship; whether Emrys is able and willing to further Quentin’s goals.

As for Luca; it won’t be long before Quentin will come to understand the full weight of Luca’s choices and the possible price that will need to be paid for them. It will be at that point where we’ll see whether Quentin’s opportunism will win out over his idealism; he will have to make a choice about what kind of man he is, and whether he’s made of ruthless ambition, or romantic ideals of chivalry and nobility.

I wonder whether Quentin will ever seek out the crusaders he helped to rescue and have a true, honest and open discussion about what the crusade meant, and what it cost the crusaders and the people they protected. Was the crusade a benevolent organisation who protected the weak from the wickedness of the demonic hordes, or was the crusade enforced on those they protected, whether they asked for protection or not? What was the price the crusaders and those they protected had to pay in order to keep humanity safe, and will Quentin be willing to pay that price? Will he be able to make the hard choices which will pit his ambitions against his ideals? Is he simply the entitled noble who is playing hero until such a time that the hero’s role becomes too difficult a burden to shoulder?