Category: RPG

Gods and Monsters

Previously, the heroes had succeeded in breaking the curse, but before they could lift it from the queen found Callum dead after he had read from one of the tablets they had liberated from the dragon’s hoard. Hurrying to the queen’s side they needed to convince the queen’s spirit to stay in the land of the living. Halfway through the ritual they were interrupted by the lord steward Gabriel and princess Mildred. In the struggle that occurred both ended up being killed. The queen drew her last breath and died, only to be reawakened with a frightening infernal glow in her eyes.

Seventh Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

While the queen slowly regained her senses and got her bearings both lady Annabella and lieutenant William lost all interest in the heroes. Luca, who was concerned for Dr. Arkenward’s well-being, could not get the handsome lieutenant of the palace guard to focus on anything but the young queen and repeated pleas for him to arrange for some warm broth fell on deaf ears.

At the same time James, who had a strong suspicion that the heroes were not out trouble yet and would surely be persecuted for the murder of the princess and her lord steward husband, asked Luca whether he was still able to use his abilities of translocation to portal them out of the palace.

When the heroes finally managed to peel lieutenant William’s attention away from the queen and ask him to take the two dead bodies away he seemed ready to comply. The heroes first wanted to get everyone’s story straight, but the naive lieutenant did not understand why that would be necessary; the heroes were interrupted in their revival of the queen and princess Mildred made use of strange magic in order to disrupt their efforts. Those who were allied with the steward might not interpret things that way, but for now that understanding would allow the heroes to walk out of the palace unhindered, so they felt satisfied.

Luca and Emrys tended to Dr. Arkenward and saw that the man was still almost catatonic and unable to move under his own strength. They carried the man, now no more than skin and bones, from the bench in front of the queen‘s bed to a sofa close to the window. The allowed the frail man to lay down and rest. Outside, the weather had turned particularly foul. Almost as foul as the smell inside the queen’s chambers. Luca used his abilities to conjure up a more pleasant smell which would mask the smell of sickness and death that lingered in the room.

Before someone would come to take the princess away, the heroes decided to investigate her body and that of her husband. They had hoped to find some explanation as to why she had interfered with the revival of the queen. While they could not find any incriminating evidence, they did find that the princess wore a bracelet that was nearly identical to the choker they had found in the possession of Xamael, likely part of the same set. Soon the pieces started to fall into place. They knew that Xamael had many names. Dagnamiir to the dwarves, Lathorael to the elves, in his human guise named Melchior, had amassed many followers from all walks of life. They also knew that Melchior had visited Blackbough under the name of Fedor, a scholar who had stayed with lord Oswin and had investigated the abandoned church. Fedor had travelled in the company of three guards and a noble woman. When they had travelled downriver the took passage on board the house boat of the same Acadian family that the heroes had travelled with. Alex and Stephane had explained that the woman was called “lady Mildred” and that she had made their twin daughters uncomfortable by repeatedly touching their hair. It seemed the princess had been wholly or partially responsible for what had happened to the queen.

Emrys suggested to James and Luca that it would not be a bad idea to check Dr. Arkenward’s personal chambers at the palace. Quentin, who had just been helping lieutenant William sort out some guard rotations, overheard the suggestion and reminded the others that Dr. Arkenward was supposedly in the possession of another tablet.

Luca took a moment to prepare a ritual which would allow him to see the weave of magic all around him; he was keen on understanding whether their mundane investigations of the chamber and the corpses of their enemies had missed anything of arcane interest. While he did not find anything on the corpses of princess Mildred and lord Gabriel, he did notice that there was a lingering magical aura that surrounded the queen which was a mix of conjuration and necromantic magic. Turning to Blackstar, Luca determined that the queen had an echo of another soul linger like a shadow behind her own, which was not unlike what he had found with lord Destan when they found him being cared for by Isobel the witch. Blackstar, predictably, commanded Luca to reap her soul and take her piece off the chess board. When Luca refused it appeared that the staff became belligerent.

A young, half-elven guard with a thick auburn braid was assigned to escort the heroes to Dr. Arkenward’s chamber, which was in a different part of the palace. The chamber was much like Callum’s room; so much so that the heroes drew the conclusion that it was somewhat of a standard layout for the members of the Circle of Magi. Luca felt at ease enough to explain that he had found the echo of another soul in the queen and James wondered aloud whether or not they had made matters worse rather than better. Emrys did not agree and believed that stopping the princess, who was working for Xamael, was undoubtedly a better thing than letting the queen die. Regardless, James cautioned Emrys to be mindful when dealing with lady Annabella, implying that whatever he shared with the queen’s handmaid would undoubtedly get back to the queen.

Investigating Dr. Arkenward’s chamber did not reveal anything that satisfied the heroes. He hardly seemed to use the place and most of the tracks that could be found ended at a wall. Upon careful inspection of the wall the heroes found a thin ring of tiny lyrium crystals on the wall, further solidifying their belief that any arcane translocation efforts spawned the crystals. The more impressive the magic, the more prominent the crystals. The heroes had found lyrium crystals at the site of portals and other translocation events; the appearance of the skaven and the orcs underneath the Sheridan estate and when they met the rapidly aging figure of Ser Florianus on their way to Pinefall. James, who was getting impatient did not think there was anything to gain from philosophising about the nature of lyrium crystals and he wanted to move on.

“We had a mission, save the queen. We’ve done that. Fine. Now we go to the second part; saving Astrid.”
– James White

The heroes returned to the queen’s chamber and found that the bodies had been removed. The queen seemed to be doing much better and Emrys managed to convince lady Annabella to keep an eye out for anything strange during a brief chat with her. The heroes decided to depart the palace and were escorted to the gate. The heroes decided to return to the Circle of Magi and they decended down Garamond hill towards the queensbridge. The weather was miserable and the streets were still next to empty.

When the heroes came to the Circle, Olafur welcomed them inside. The heroes wanted to speak to the archmage Esmeralda d’Ortega, the wizard who had replaced Dr. Arkenward as the head of the Circle of Abjurers when he was appointed the royal abjurer. It was their intention to hopefully convince the archmage to replace Dr. Arkenward as the royal abjurer as he recovered. The archmage was busy tending to students and during that time the heroes spoke to Olafur and shared a stiff drink with him. He shared that the word of their exploits had already travelled throughout the city and that there were rumours that the plaguemaidens had been seen moving north. He also referred to the heroes as the Champions of the Lyrian Throne, which was a title they could add to their collection.

Archmage Esmeralda was not as receptive to the idea of taking Dr. Arkenward’s place at court as the heroes had hoped. She briefly lingered to chat with the heroes before going back to tending to the students. Luca had wandered off to relief himself and spontaneously decided to depart the Circle and make his way to Steward Square.

During that time the grand archmage Réonan came to join the heroes. James seized the opportunity to ask them some questions, which lead them to learn a lot from the enigmatic head of the Circle of Magi.

James learned that the “Demon of the South Western Winds” referred to a demon named Pazuzu. Not just any demon, but the first demon, and the lord of Pazunia, the first layer of the Abyss. That layer was also known as the “layer of portals” or the “layer of doors.”

When the heroes stood on the verge of being defeated by Xamael a myserious figure appeared and turned the tide in the conflict. Xamael had called that figure “Aurion” and referred to it as his brother. When James asked Réonan if they knew who that was, a wry smile came over their face. It was a complicated question to answer according to Réonan. Aurion was once called called Auriel and had been a messenger of Paladine.

Then they became a renegade and Auriel was stripped of that name and became known as Aurion. But once, long ago, they were called Aureus, the Golden One, when they were stripped of their divine animus and were made a mortal. Their crime? Getting too involved in the affairs of mankind by starting the Silver Crusade.

Lastly, James asked what about the Blood War, and Réonan explained that Tharizdun found the Shard of Evil and plunged it into the elemental chaos and thus formed the Abyss, from which spawned all demons. The god went mad when they saw what they had done and was punished with imprisonment. The celestials fought the demons but became corrupted by their presence. These corrupted celestials were an affront to other celestials and were cast out. They became devils and made their home in hell. Devils and demons fought one another to a stalemate. Devils, like celestials, were beings of law and order, were disciplined and regimented and achieved success through a tyrannical hierarchy. While demons were chaotic and wanton and achieved success through sheer force and numbers.

The demons, the heroes learned, had one goal; destruction. They were driven to consume and destroy until there was nothing left. The devils were driven to eradicate the demons and oppose them at every turn. They wanted to bring the multiverse back to order by any and all means. This was the blood war.

When Quentin challenged Réonan on why they did not broadcast this information far and wide, they became agitated. Réonan claimed that humanity was not ready to accept the full weight of that information and in light of that they decided that they would shepherd humanity as best they could instead. That was an entirely dissatisfying answer to Quentin.

In the meantime, Luca had made his way towards the Careless Wanderer and gazed across a mostly empty Steward Square, looking at the Cathedral of the Platinum Father. He entered through it’s great, vaulted doors. The mood inside was quiet and reverent and Luca saw that small groups of people had taken refuge inside and were praying in the pews along the centre aisle and the alcoves dedicated to the different saints. Luca walked down the aisle to the alter at the transept. On either side were the two main chapels; one dedicated to Saint Catherine of Dunagore, the other to Saint Aureus the Golden One. Having remembered that the chapel to Saint Aureus was the one that the inky darkness was descending down onto prior Benedict during his sermon, Luca stepped inside that chapel and knelt at the altar.

Luca had started to understand the nature and possibly the identify of his mysterious patron and he felt he was at the right place to talk to Aurion. He folded his hands together, like he had seen some of the worshippers and clergy in the cathedral do, and he began to speak. Getting a quick response from that voice like dark honey bolstered Luca’s confidence; it was the first time he had been so forward.

The conversation explained a few things; who Aurion was and why Luca had been lead to believe that he served a dark master. Aurion was a renegade celestial who had not stood idly by while the Age of Fear came upon mankind and he had been stripped of his immortality for it, becoming Aureus the Golden One, leading the Silver Crusade. He was forgiven and had regained his celestial status, but went renegade under the guise of a much darker identity. He left Luca to ponder a choice; would he prefer to continue to serve Aurion the fiend, with all the benefits and detriments, or would he rather serve Aurion the celestial?

Luca decided to stand in Aurion’s radiance and serve his celestial master.

The Death of a Queen

Previously, the heroes returned to Kingsport and were received by several groups of people, Lyrian knights, palace guard, house Courtenay, as well as Callum the Diviner who was eager to discover if they had been successful. Quentin joined the palace guard to stand vigil over the queen, while the rest met at the Circle of Mages to break the curse on the khazra head. They were successful, but it took a toll. While Callum was resting, James and Luca went to visit Ecgbrith the herbalist and Emrys went to replenish his spell components. During that time, Callum had found one of the tablets and read from it, damaging his psyche which ultimately lead to his death.

Seventh Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

After discovering the death of the diviner James walked all the way back to the lobby in order to inform Olafur. The long corridor was this time filled with students getting ready for their classes. When James finally came to the lobby he found Olafur tending to the needs of the students. After informing the sturdy Miðgarðurian about Callum’s fate he promptly dropped everything and took James along a series of rooms, doors and hallways which lead them back to Callum’s room in no time.

When Olufar was over the shock of the old diviner’s death, Luca asked if archmage Esmeralda, the Arroyan headmistress of the Circle of Abjuration. Olafur, instead, decided to inform Réonan, the grand archmage of the Circle of Mages. The heroes were wondering how to proceed; they knew the curse was broken, but still needed to be lifted. Olafur suggested looking through Callum’s notes to see if they could find clues about what he expected the next step to be.

Luca looked across the room, at all the stacks of books and notes, and immediately felt at home and in his element. He quickly sifted through the most recent papers and notes and found that likely the queen’s spirit would have faded away over time and would need to be convinced to return to her body.

I strongly suspect that it will not be enough to save our queen simply by breaking the curse. The Heroes of the White Eye have been away for too long for this to be a trivial matter; instead, the queen’s spirit will have faded and be halfway into the arms of the Raven Queen and her soul will need to be persuaded to stay with her body.

While in torpor, her soul will be susceptible to the pleas at their behest. There are reports of family members having lamented and pleaded to such an extent that the departing souls turned their course and returned to the land of the living. If the queen does not wake of her own accord than we should have to resort to convincing her fading spirit that it is worth staying here, with us, rather than spend the rest of eternity on the slopes of Mount Celestia. Not an easy task, but one that we must preform.

Furthermore, Callum had seen some portents regarding the queen which disturbed him greatly;

I have tried to divine the future but it remains murky. I am too far removed from my heart to have real clarity in these matters. I am too old, too frail and too feeble to have the wisdom to interpret these signs, but I believe that the Heroes of the White Eye will return with good news.

But the symbols of hope are dimmed by the shadows of doubt and despair. The agents of the Takhisis are gathering around our queen and are plotting her demise. They are carried by leathery wings and driven by lashes of a vicious crop.

I will ask lieutenant Williams to stand vigil with our queen, for I believe this agents will come for her if the curse doesn’t take her. Dr. Arkenward has been too weakened to prove effective beyond containing the illness that afflicts our queen.

And lastly, Luca found some interesting thoughts on ghost orchids;

There is no mistaken the power that the old magick holds, especially with those that deeply believe in its efficacy. Their conviction and faith fuels its power beyond what the modern day arcanists can accomplish. Its power lies in the middle ground between the arcane and the divine. Perhaps it’s fuelled by both, which might explain its raw potentiality.

Completed was my surprise when I found that the wards were constructed by three, distinctly different layers of old magick, interwoven with the traces of blood sacrifices instilled in the dreadful petals of the ghost orchids. The raw power locked in those delicate vessels is enough to topple dynasties and should be kept out of the wrong hands.

While the heroes discussed the findings, they were accompanied by a tall person with an androgynous look to them; they had long, silvery blond hair, pale complexion and striking green eyes. They were wearing expensive, green garments made from the finest silk which were draped across their tall, slender frame. They introduced themselves as Réonan, the grand archmage of the Circle of Mages. The conversation was short and mostly dealt with the death of Callum. Réonan said they would inform Callum’s family, and they urged the heroes to make their way to the queen’s side. Upon departure, Réonan put an arm on Luca’s shoulder and said that it was good to see him again. Luca was a little perplexed by that, since he had never seen Réonan before.

Emrys, Luca and James headed to the palace and when they arrived convinced the guards at the gate to allow them entrance. They were brought to the mess hall that the crownguard used and found lieutenant William there. When they explained to him what they were about to undertake he rushed them to the queen’s side using the entrance through the watergardens. Within no time they entered the queen’s chambers at the top of the palace.

The gloomy room smelled of sickness. On the far side, the queen lay in a large bed, unmoving except for some shallow breaths. Her pallor looked deathly and the heroes saw that she had been suffering. In front of her bed, sitting hunched over in a lotus position was the robed figure of Dr. Arkenward. He looked as if he was near to death, with hardly any hair left on his liver-spotted head and his paper-thin skin stretched taught across his emaciated frame. He looked like he could expire at any moment, and so Luca, in an attempt to bolster him, tried to give him one of the orange lyrium crystals, but he seemed unwilling to take them; perhaps they were not the right kind for what he was undertaking. Lady Annabella and Quentin had remained by the queen’s side all night and both looked tired.

After bringing Quentin and lady Annabella up to speed on what happened since the previous evening and how they would have to convince the queen’s fading spirit to return to her body in order for her to survive. In the end, several people took turns in whispering encouragement into the queen’s ear, all the while Emrys played an encouraging tune on his lute. James tried to persuade the queen by describing all the things he loved about Kingsport and how she had been responsible for many of them. Quentin described the splendour of the country, which he had witnessed as he flew on the back of a griffon from Pinefall to Kingsport. Luca decided to recite a list of different monarchs who had made great sacrifices for the good of their domains. And lady Annabella pleaded with the queen that her subjects needed her, commoners and nobility alike.

Each stated their cases really clearly, with passion and conviction and the queen, but before there was any response from her the doors opened and lord Gabriel and a woman, who the heroes later identified as princess Mildred, burst into the room demanding to know what was going on and to put a stop to it immediately. When the heroes did not immediately obey and Quentin went to intercept lord Gabriel from reaching the queen, he immediately called for the guards and for lieutenant William to arrest the heroes.

Emrys decided to put a stop to it by casting the part of the room in a scintillating array of hypnotic colours. This completely overwhelmed lord Gabriel, but much to everyone’s surprise, princess Mildred was left unaffected and she rushed forward, trying to get to the queen’s bedside. A fight broke out where the princess let out an inhuman, piercing shriek which sent shockwaves of pain through everyone in the room. This was met with an immediate barrage of radiant bolts of eldritch energy from Luca and the princess crumpled. James did not think twice and rushed lord Gabriel; if they were going to be murderers, he might as well make sure that lord Gabriel was going down as well. He stabbed him to death while the man barely had his wits about him.

Turning to the queen, it seemed that their efforts had not helped to revive her from her torpor. She started to spasm and convulse and after a short time she drew her last breath. Whether the heroes had done something wrong, or whether the interruption by the princess and her husband, it was not clear to the heroes. A quiet sadness fell over the room. The heroes had worked so hard and it seemed like they had been foiled by something that lay outside of their control.

…but then, the queen stirred and slowly opened her eyes. The heroes looked on in shock as there was an infernal radiance which shone from the queen’s eyes. She was alive, but at what cost?

The Cost of Breaking Curses

Previously, the heroes managed to make contact with the fleet of the royal armada that were blocking the port of Eastray and managed to convince them of the gravity of their task and the urgency with which they had to reach Kingsport. Lady Fiona of House Kenton, captain of the Sea Spirit, and Ser Aegar of Dunagore, captain of the Green Naga both convinced their admiral that the Green Naga could be relieved to tow a sloop carrying the heroes back to Kingsport. The voyage was rough on the stomach but the heroes arrived in Kingsport, to a large reception at the docks.

Sixth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

Before the heroes disembarked from the Green Naga, they were thoroughly inspected and treated by father Devon and mother superior Arwyn, priests at the Temple of Pholtus and declared healthy and untainted. Ser Roderick of House Corbray, a knight in the Order of the Lance spoke to the heroes as well, and it became clear from both conversations that while Kingsport was not in the same dire straits as Eastray, the city had undergone quite a few changes since their departure.

A curfew had been placed on the city and nobody, except those with explicit permission by the crownguard, was allowed on the street between sundown and sunrise. Plaguemaidens had been spotted throughout the city and the crownguard had their hands full in combating them, and not having much success at it. With the added complications of skaven sightings the crownguard were forced to deputise willing citizens. One of the groups who had answered the call were the custodians of the monastic order of saint Catherine, whose ranks had swelled considerably in the wake of the sermon by the living saint, prior Benedict McAllister. The heroes also learned that there were pockets of the city which were locked down due to spreading disease, including almost all of the ward of Grimsdown.

When the heroes came on shore, Callum and lieutenant William were waiting for them. Callum asked after Randall and was informed that the man had fallen. The old diviner supressed his urge to grieve his loss and asked after the success of their mission and was relieved to learn that the heroes had managed to lift the wards that was protecting the curse on the khazra head. Lieutenant William reported that the queen was still alive, but barely, and that Dr. Arkenward had withered considerably and would likely expire soon. Quentin decided to join lieutenant William and stand vigil over the queen, while the rest of the group were going to make their way to the Circle of Magi, to aid Callum in breaking the curse.

Before the heroes were allowed to depart with Callum, Ser Arman de Courtenay, dressed in full ceremonial armour, complete with flying wings made from griffon feathers, rode his horse forward, flanked on either side by a retinue of Courtenay guards. He received the heroes warmly and said that much had changed since their initial encounter below the Sheridan estate, referring to their accomplishments and earned fame. He introduced a noble that rode along side him, dressed in the finest clothes, with short, blonde hair, piercing blue eyes, a small chin and thin lips, and a dark frown; Lord Charles Courtenay, head of house Courtenay, and Ser Arman’s first cousin.

As Ser Arman went down the line, naming each of the heroes, lord Charles observed each of them intently, as if methodically memorising each detail about them. Lord Charles asked whether their mission to Eastmarsh was successful. When the heroes replied that they were, he merely nodded curtly and said “good.” He then asked whether the heroes would do him the honour of visiting him at his manse in Ravensbourne when they had a moment to talk. James said that it would be their honour and with that, the lord, his cousin and the retinue departed.

Quentin joined lieutenant William, and the rest joined Callum in a carriage which would bring them to the Circle. Emrys made sure to thank Ser Aegar for the trust he and lady Fiona had placed in them, and with that the group departed. The carriage was escorted by Ser Roderick and some crownguard across a mostly empty city. The only people that were on the street besides the crownguard and their deputies were citizens hurrying to their homes, usually carrying food, firewood and other necessary sundries.

During the ride, Callum was full of questions, but James was reluctant to share the details of their experiences and what they had retrieved from Xamael’s body, in particular the whip. That frustrated Callum and eventually Emrys placated him by telling him a curated version of their encounter with the dreadlord, about the dragons and their brood. The mention of a dragon surprised Callum, but the appearance of a second dragon confused him, as did the mention of the brood.

In the meantime, Luca made his way through an empty city. He deftly dodged several of the groups of crownguard and deputies and got to within sight of the entrance to the Circle of Magi. He quickly moved up and knocked on the door, only to be rebuffed by Olafur who refused to open up, citing the curfew. Exposed and out in the open, Luca retreated away from the Elysian street in order to stay undetected. While hiding between the hedges of two large manses he noticed a cloaked figured crawling from one hedge to the other, in obvious pain. Luca found the figure to be unresponsive but decided to stay away from them. He continued to try the Earring of Whispers in the hope of getting in touch with James.

Shortly after, James and Luca made contact as the carriage came up to the Circle. Luca came out and informed the crownguard under Ser Roderick’s command about the figure. They went to investigate and found the figure to be a dying skaven, promptly killing it and dragging it away on orders of Ser Roderick. When that grizzly business had been settled Callum and the heroes gained entrance to the circle. Luca gave Olafur a dirty look as the Miðgarðurian opened the door, which made the big man plead with Luca that he was not allowed to open the door to strangers during curfew.

The wood-panelled lobby gained the group entrance to a long hallway which went on and on far beyond the dimensions of the mundane looking building. Despite the curious herb garden out in front of the building, there was nothing to suggest that the building, made from the same Northshire limestone that most buildings in Kingsport were made from, housed the campus of Lyria’s eminent wizard academy.

The heroes followed Callum through the long corridor for what felt like half an hour. They passed many closed doors, and several open ones, revealing students in their quarters, reading, experimenting, debating playing demon dice, or fallen asleep with their head on their books. Eventually Callum stopped in front of a door and opened it to reveal his own quarters. Some of the heroes had been invited their before and recognised it immediately. It was a small room with desk, a fireplace with a seating arrangement, a bed and staircase that went up to a maisonette filled with bookcases.

Callum revealed the khazra head which he had kept underneath a glass dome. He took out a tuning fork and tapped it on his desk. It rang out a perfect c minor, Emrys knew. The diviner took the fork and placed its handle up against one of the khazra horns and the fiendish inscriptions which had been etched into it lit up with a fiery red glow. Removing it, the light died down again and Callum placed the tuning fork against the other horn, whose etchings began to glow as well. Callum concluded and explained that he had prepared a ritual that he could perform to break it, but he would require Luca and Emrys’ help in fuelling it.

Boosting the ritual, Luca offered his remaining magical potency, as well as some that Blackstar granted him. Emrys added his as well, but it was not quite enough. Luca had an epiphany and decided to drain the magical potency in a Lyrium crystal into the ritual. The crystal went dull as the magic was taken up by the ritual. It would take six more crystals for the ritual to be completed, but it taught Emrys and Luca a valuable lesson about the potentiality of the lyrium crystals; they could not only be used to replace a material component in a spell, they could also be used to boost an arcanist’s daily potency.

When the ritual was completed, Callum, who was visibly exhausted, picked up the tuning fork, tapped his desk, and found that neither horn lit up any longer. The curse had been broken, but it still needed to be lifted, but before the diviner was ready to head out to the palace to see the queen, he needed to rest.

“His wife’s a cunt. Randall was a cunt. He’s probably a cunt, too.”
– James White, on Callum the Diviner

Seventh Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

While Callum, Emrys and Luca rested from their effort, James walked all the way up the long corridor to find Olafur in the lobby of the Circle. He asked the Miðgarðurian if there was a possibility to trade for several pearls. After some negotiations James traded roughly four hundred gold crowns in gems which were part of his reward for the work he had done for the Sheridan family in exchange for four pearls which he knew Luca could use to divine the nature and abilities of the magical artifacts they had liberated from Kalauranthalasis’ treasury.

When the young half-elf returned to the room he woke up Emrys and Luca, but Callum required more rest. Luca and James decided to pay Ecgbrith, the Kaedwyni herbalist outside of the city, a visit. They left the tablets, but took Blackstar and the whip and made the long walk down to the lobby while Emrys remained with Callum. The two departed the Circle building and hurried up the empty Elysian street, just as the sun was rising in the east.

They found the herbalist in his hut in the shadow of the Bastion of Restraint and the gruff Kaedwyni was surprised to see them. He was even more surprised when Luca offered him the promised ghost orchid, which he took in trembling hands and carefully secured it away. He had many questions on where and how the heroes had obtained the orchid, but James convinced him that certain questions were better left unanswered. He eagerly thanked the heroes by replenishing the supplies in their healer’s kit. When it came to the potions he was able to offer he was less eager and said that he only had a little over half a dozen health potions left, each at a significant price due to the situation in the city.

The heroes, short of funds, decided not to immediately take the herbalist up on the offer of the expensive health potions and decided to leave. Before they left, the herbalist asked whether they had heard anything about something called dark delirium, a strange, intoxicating sleep that people can go into which allows them to dream fantastical things. It has significantly cut into the profits of the Ravnos, the group of szygani which deal in fadeleaf and blindweed outside of the city. According to Ecgbrith the Steady Hand had taken to smuggling people across the city through the ancient waterways in order to supply them with a place to indulge in delirium. Luca said he would ask one of his friends at the Circle about it if he found the opportunity.

On their way back to the Circle the two heroes were walking down the Elysian street and passed by the southern edge of Grimsdown, and in the light of the day saw that the streets leading into the ward were blocked off by carts and wooden crates, all manned by crownguard and custodians. They were mindful that their friend Brandomiir had found a hut in Grimsdown to hunker down for the winter, and they wondered how he was faring in the lockdown.

While Luca and James were out, Emrys went to talk to Olafur in order to replenish some of his spell components. He found chunks of obsidian and caterpillar husks as well as several feathers he would need, and needed to pay a significant amount of gold crowns for it. When he returned to the room, Emrys found that Callum was reading from one of the tablets, reciting strange scripture in an almost panicked voice. Emrys took the tablet away from the distressed diviner and the old man seemed confused. He wanted to go back to rest and sat back down in a chair, covering himself with a blanket to go back to sleep.

When James and Luca finally returned back to Callum’s room it was about time for all  of them to depart for the palace. Emrys explained that he had found the old diviner reading from the tablet. They all decided they would need to be more careful in the future. When Emrys went to wake Callum he was shocked to find that the old man had passed away.

Towed to Kingsport

Previously, the heroes convinced the red custodians that had taken control of Rivermeet to grant them passage down the river Ivel towards Eastray, even though the city was in chaos due to a rampant plague which had taken hold of the population, causing the royal armada to blockade the port. Against all odds, they managed to manoeuvre a barge all the way downstream and arrived on the mouth of the delta just south of the city and made camp there in order to attempt to contact the armada in the morning.

Sixth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

The next morning, only two days removed from Dr. Arkenward losing control of the queen’s curse, the heroes woke up south of Eastray. For the first time in a while the heroes had managed to get a decent night’s rest, despite not having a good fire available to warm them in order to avoid being spotted by any skaven which might be roaming the swamp outside of Eastray. What had saved them was the bed of reed they had created which shielded them significantly from the soggy ground. Despite the disturbing noises coming from the city, they had managed to sleep well.

The morning had started with a thick layer of fog blanketing the delta, disallowing them to get a good view of the armada, beyond a few milky silhouettes of the masts and an occasional prow in the distance. If the heroes couldn’t see the ships, those on the ships couldn’t see them either, they reckoned and they decided to rely on their magical abilities. Emrys, having slept underneath the light of the waxing Silvermoon, felt invigorated by the moonmaiden and said he could probably bestow flight on all of the members, but James thought that it would just get them shot down before reaching the ships. So instead, Emrys used his ability to shape water to dissipate the fog while Luca cast a large illusionary image of the royal crest high in the air to attract attention and declare their allegiance.

The heroes were surprised at how quickly they received a signal from one of the ships and saw that soon after a sloop was lowered into the water, manned with sailors who rowed it ashore. The heroes met them on the beach to the south of the delta. While they rowed ashore, the heroes noticed that the man they had spotted the previous evening was standing on the dune, surrounded by helm grass, observing the heroes on the beach. He made no attempt to come closer nor did he appear threatening so the heroes left them be as the sailors rowed the sloop as close to the beach as they could before two people jumped out and waded ashore.

It appeared to be a uniformed woman and an lightly armoured soldier. They introduced themselves as lady Fiona of house Kenton, captain of the Sea Spirit, and Ser Aegar of Dunagore, master commander in the Order of the Shield. When the heroes introduced themselves as the Heroes of the White Eye, the looks of caution and scepticism on the face of the two people they were parlaying with changed significantly. Those looks changed to looks of sorrow when Ser Aegar asked about the whereabouts of Astrid and Luca informed him that she had fallen.

There was an exchange of information about the situation in the rest of Lyria; the situation that was seen in Eastray had not spread to other cities like Fulcaster or Bournemouth, but there were some continued troubles in Kingsport, where the crownsguard had deputised a large group of red custodians to help maintain order in light of the strange spectres which appeared in the city in the past ride. Princess Mildred had been seen at court for the first time in a long while as she supported her husband, lord Gabriel, in his rulership of the kingdom while the queen lay ill.

A plan was made which would have to be approved by lord admiral Malcolm Linderley that would see Ser Aegar captain his ship, the Green Naga, to Kingsport with the heroes in tow. They would stay on a small sloop so as not to risk spreading any disease to the crew, and in the meantime a raven would be sent to Kingsport to request the aid of the priests of Pholtus to assure that the heroes were indeed not sick.

With the admiral approved the plan, the ravens were released, and Ser Aegar captained the Green Naga north-west to Kingsport. The journey was cold and rough, across choppy waters in a small boat which was being towed at a much higher speed than it was designed to go. Luca and Emrys had a very difficult time keeping their breakfast in their stomach due to severe sea sickness. Upon the poop deck of the Green Naga there was a steady stream of interested sailors and knights who peered over the side to have a peek at the famous Heroes of the White Eye. Meanwhile, Wyn was having a grand time running circles on the edge of the boat and balancing on the rope that tied the ship to the boat.

After long hours bouncing across the waves the first seagulls began to trail the ship, indicating that they were getting close to land, and soon the coast came into view. Shortly after the palace on top of Garamond Hill, and the Bastion of Illumination on Quayhill, flanking the mouth of the river, came into view and James immediately felt home. The sun was quickly sinking in the west, but with the remaining light it was clear that there was quite a delegation of people that came to welcome the Green Naga to port. Despite the ship being significantly smaller than the war galleons of the royal armada, it was still larger than most merchant vessels that normally lay at anchor in Kingsport, so it took a while for the ship to manoeuvre itself into position to dock. In that time the heroes discussed the next steps.

James brought up the idea of sinking both tablets to the bottom of the bay and retrieving them at a later time, but Luca thought it might be better to put them in Emma’s care, which Emrys thought it was a bad idea as he was reminded that someone was after Muirgheal and thus Emma was a target. Quentin considered whether it was best to tell the Circle of Magi, or whether to keep it from them.

It took a moment for the heroes to recognise some of the people in the delegation; they saw the lieutenant of the palace guard, William, as well as father Devon and Mother Superior Arwyn of the temple of Pholtus. Ser Roderick Corbray of the Order of the Lance was there, flanked by several lyrian knights; he had also been at their arrival in Kingsport when they returned from Pinefall. Callum the Diviner could be seen among the people on the dock, as was Ser Arman de Courtnay who was accompanied by a large company of people carrying the Courtenay banners.

Ultimately, the heroes decided that when in range, Luca would portal away, carrying the ghost orchids, one of the two tablets and the choker. He portalled himself to an entrance to the ancient waterways which was built into the dock wall, underneath the pier. Out of sight, Luca used his connection to his mysterious patron and assumed the guise of Dicky and portalled himself to a nearby alleyway. As he reappeared there was a scattering of honking geese and the laundry that was hanging from coarse ropes strung overhead went flying in each direction, but the people of the Salt knew to mind their own business when they saw the brutish Dicky walking their streets.

Back on the boat, James moved his bag from one shoulder to the other, making certain that the pocket dimension would not be found. It did mean that Wyn’s head was poking out of the bag, his long tuft of white hair billowing in the wind.

Down the River Ivel

Previously, the heroes made their way out of the ziggurat at the middle of Wyrmblood Lake with many of Kalauranthalasis’ riches. Despite encountering great reluctance, they managed to find passage to Rivermeet with an Acadian family who warned them of disease having broken out in Eastray.

Fifth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

Early in the morning, with only three days left until it was predicted that Dr. Arkenward would lose control of the curse that was placed on the young queen of Lyria, the heroes found themselves on the edge of Rivermeet, at the start of the large delta which would bring them to Eastray and, ultimately, beyond to Kingsport. There was one potential problem that stood in their way, and that was the large contingent of Red Custodians that were patrolling the hamlet and had taken control of the quay and all the boats there. It seemed that they had imposed a curfew and forced all the villagers into their huts, while simultaneously keeping any travellers corralled in a pen.

Quentin had observed the movements of the custodians, but could not discern any clear patterns in their patrols, which didn’t give him the confidence that the heroes would be able to sneak their way to the quay and take a boat. The heroes also realised that any documentation which might prove to the custodians how important their mission would be to the crown was still on captain Randal’s body, which they sank into the swamp outside of Blackbough after his untimely death at the hands of the foglet and the will-o-wisps.

As the heroes were lamenting being stuck in the swamp James remarked that it would be good to get back to Kingsport again, enjoying a warm bed, some good food, a strong drink. He said he’d buy everyone a whore upon return and at hearing that Quentin subconsciously reached out for his wrist where once he had tied a maiden’s handkerchief. He caught the move but had a puzzled look on his face, as if trying to recall something.

The heroes decided that the direct approach was going to work better than subterfuge and Quentin was volunteered to do the talking. They entered the hamlet and walked up to the quay and were soon stopped by two custodians, red-robed and carrying maces. They were brother Lem and sister Jane, who, after listening to Quentin’s explanation on why the heroes had to be granted access to a boat and make their way down river to the coast, deferred the decision to brother Canaan, who headed their mission in Rivermeet. It struck the others that Quentin would likely not have had the success in convincing the custodians that he did, had it not been for his station.

The heroes were lead to the pen in which the other visitors to Rivermeet had been kept, but because they were allowed to keep their weapons none of them felt particularly threatened by that so they complied. It did not take long before brother Canaan, an older, bearded custodian with a commanding presence. The man was sceptical at first, but proved no match against the collective charm and personality of the heroes and quickly consented to them taking a barge downriver in the interest of the queendom.

One of the people locked in the pen with the heroes was Hubert, a Fulham cattle breeder who was travelling with his prize-winning breeding steer and accompanied several lads who acted as his guards. Upon learning that the heroes were allowed to proceed on their way, the man became outraged and began to complain to the custodians. When the custodians ignored him, Emrys went to talk to him and leared several rumours about the area, as well as what was happening in Eastray.

Emrys leaned that the previous night, a winged, serpentine shaped had flown high overhead Rivermeet, startling everyone. It flew in from the north-west and headed deeper into the hinterland of Eastmarsh. It was dark and unclear on what it was, but the consensus among the people in Rivermeet was that it was a dragon, which hasn’t been sighted in a generation.

The situation in Eastray was dire; disease and pestilence everywhere, while house Ivel had barred their gates while people died in the streets of the bloody flux. The outskirts of the city were harassed by ratmen. The szygani camp had disbanded and moved away and the custodians were busy trying to burn the corpses and fighting an unknown threat.

The last thing Hubert was able to share was that a man had come to Rivermeet the previous day and was stopped from proceeding down the river by the custodians. The man would not be stopped and according to Hubert he had made the ground shake and the river rise and capsize the boats that the custodians were in before continuing on his way. Rumours were that it was the Old Man of the Estuary, a local hermit who was said to be a powerful druid.

Emrys was thankful for the information and gifted the man a handful of gemstones which he had found, which would allow Hubert to mitigate some of his losses by being held up in Rivermeet with his bull. After the initial shock had worn off, the man was incredibly grateful and likely would never forget the gesture.

Eventually, the heroes were released and assigned a barge and they went on their merry way. No longer being able to rely on their friend Astrid, the duties of punting the barge downriver fell to Quentin and James who quickly get a hang of it and did a spectacular job in avoiding terrifying crocolisks and treacherous sandbanks to get stuck on.

At the end of the day the heroes disembarked from the barge to the south of Eastray. To the north the dark skies above the city was glowing with the fires of the pyres where the custodians were burning the bodies of the dead. Thick plumes of smoke rose up over the rooftops of the huts and houses. There were no signs of the skaven the heroes had heard about, but occasionally some disturbing noises carried on the wind.

Curiously, they noticed a singular man, standing in a small boat in the middle of one of the arms of the river. The boat did not seem to be moving, despite the current. The man was as unmoving as the boat he was standing in, staring out to the west, across the water. It reminded the heroes of the woman in the blue cape which they had seen standing in a boat on the Bourne river, just after they had been attacked by drowners while traveling upriver on the Old Queen, from Bournemouth to Egremont.

To the west, in the distance, a small armada of ships could be seen through the fog where they lay at anchor in the gulf, intent on keeping the Eastray port locked up. There were a dozen large, royal war galleons laying alongside half a dozen smaller, faster deployment ships flying the flag of the Order of the Shield. They would have to find a way to signal to the fleet, alert them that they had urgent business in Kingsport and, crucially, had not been infected with whatever disease befell Eastray.

The bank the heroes had disembarked on was full of tall reeds, which proved to be a great bedding once cut down and stacked. It kept the soggy ground from soaking clothing and blankets as camp was made. A fire was made by Emrys using his arcane gifts to dry out the little bit of kindling they could find to make a fire.

While resting, the conversation turned to what the reason could be for the skavens’ appearance in Eastray, and Luca thought he had found a clue. He read the letter which he had found on the body of the skaven priest in the carceratum again;

The plague maidens are congregating, drawn by the pestilent potential of a potent, ancient magic. I have read the signs and portents and require the skavens of clan [unclear] to investigate and reveal the truth. I have gathered enough [unclear] that I may open a gate through the seal for a short time through which they may travel. Once verified, they will report and be given further instruction.

– Epidemius the Cataloguer, Lord of Decay, One of the Seven Proctors of Pestilence. Devoted Underling of Baalzebul the Calabite, Ruler of the Seventh, Lord of Maladomini.

While James and Quentin tended to their severely blistered hands, having had to work the barge pole all day, Emrys spent time investigating the scrolls the heroes liberated from the dragon’s hoard, finding some interesting spells inscribed on them.

The next day, the heroes would attempt to make contact with the fleet and find a way to convince them to help get the heroes to Kingsport. They only have two more days before Dr. Arkenward would lose control of the curse.