Category: RPG

Grimsdown Observation

Previously, the heroes were determined to find Hamish Black, an apprentice at the Circle of Magi and friend of Luca, whom the heroes suspected of being the source of the dark delirium which was quickly gaining popularity in Kingsport. Their search lead them to a szygani camp outside of Kingsport and the centre of power of the notorious Ravnos family. Vadoma was staying at the camp, and as a token of her gratitude she brokered a conversation between the heroes and Ionuţ Ravnos, the defacto head of the Ravnos family.

First Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon in high sanction. Darkmoon is waxing.)

It was a cold and wet afternoon outside of Belstone Corner, the small village a little ways outside of Kingsport where the szygani made their camp in the treeline of a small stretch of woods.

Luca and Ionuţ took a walk while followed at a short distance by Astrid and Vadoma. Ionuţ explained that he was willing to help find Hamish, but in order to be effective he would need some personal items from Hamish in order to speed up the process. The szygani had narrowed his location down to the locked down ward of Grimsdown, and Ionuţ could add that he was likely being moved through the waterways below the streets; territory held by the Steady Hand.

The heroes said goodbye to the szygani and headed back to Kingsport in order to make it beyond the ramparts and inside the city before the curfew went into effect and the city would lock its gates. During the walk back the heroes discussed the concern of going into Grimsdown and Steady Hand controlled territory and James being recognised. James thought it was a risk that was necessary to take because without him he believed the heroes would likely not make it out of the ward.

There were some fundamental questions about why the ward was in lockdown and Astrid could offer that she had heard rumours of plaguemaidens being sighted in the ward. James wondered aloud why there would be plaguemaidens remaining in the ward seeing as how they were attracted to queen’s curse, which the heroes had lifted.

In order to validate the situation inside the ward, James suggested he would go out for the evening and scout the ward from the air and looking at it from the top of the ramparts that overlooked the wards, for which he needed Emrys’ help. The heroes remembered the plaguemaiden they fought in the alchemist’s shop in Bournemouth, and that she had an eerie glow that should be easily visible from the air should any plaguemaidens be roaming the streets of Grimsdown.

The heroes arrived back in Kingsport just before the gates were closed for the night and they decided to skip going to see Vydia and go straight to the wanderer. There they spent some time having supper, talking and listening in on some of the conversations going on around them. There was a persistent rumour that the queen was going to take her new army and march on Farcorner.

Some merchants speculated that they could make a quick bit of coin if they could do one more run to Càrceres and purchase food. An army tended to require a lot of food and since they were passing by Fairfields it would mean their grain stores would deplete significantly.

People were much happier now that the queen had survived her ordeal and the belief was that she would lead Lyria to better times, despite the disappearance of princess Mildred and her husband, the lord steward.

James and Emrys went to get ready; dressing warmly and preparing for their scouting mission over Grimsdown. They left from the balcony of his room. Emrys enchanted the both of them with the ability to fly and quickly they rose up in the cold, rainy air. They had noticed the lady commander flying atop Frostfeather high above the city and so decided to stay low by the rooftops in order to avoid detection. The rain in people’s faces would mean people were unlikely to look up at the sky, so they felt safe.

They landed on the rooftop of the library of Ioun in the Ravensbourne ward, holding on to Ioun’s eye that was raised atop roof of the highest point. They observed Grimsdown for a while until they were confident they could move in closer and take up position on the roof of the tallest building, which was conveniently located in the centre of Grimsdown, along one of the larger streets which allowed access to North street which divided Grimsdown from Sevenoaks. That, according to James, was the easiest way in and out of Grimsdown, should the other heroes need to sneak their way in.

From their vantage point, Emrys and James were on the lookout for lights, congregations of people, possible hideouts and plaguemaidens. They saw few lights, almost no signs of people, and none of the plaguemaidens and it became clear that perhaps the latter was a rumour which was kept alive for nefarious reasons. There were three areas in Grimsdown that were suspiciously devoid of activity and James believed that this might be the areas of the highest Steady Hand concentration. Regardless, all around the ward there were signs of ransacking and all exits were barricaded by the crownsguard and custodians.

While James and Emrys were atop the buildings in Ravensbourne and Grimsdown, in the cold rain, Luca and Quentin were warm and dry, and enjoying some wine with Astrid and Druham, though it came at a steep price; apparently the lack of goods coming into the city had also affected the cost of the wine. Even though he knew what the answer was going to be, Luca asked Durham to check with the kitchen to see whether there was any charcoal left, but found that Ramsay had been cooking on logs rather than charcoal.

Eventually Quentin retired to his room and decided to pray to the Raven Queen for the safe return of his friends and companions. Luca and Astrid sat with Durham into the wee hours of the night until James and Emrys safely returned, landing back on the balcony outside of Emrys’ room and walking down into a quiet tavern room for a last drink.

Tracking Down Hamish Black

Previously, Quentin visited the House of the Raven Queen in order to ally himself with Her in the struggles to come. Later he received a second letter from his father that gave him more insight into the motives of high lord Gauthier, who was accompanying his father to Kingsport.

Luca was keen on returning to the Circle of Magi in order to look into the disappearance of his friend Hamish. Also, the heroes wanted to talk to the head archmage of the Circle in order to address the prisoners that Arkenward had locked up inside his sanctum.

First Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon in high sanction. Darkmoon is waxing.)

That morning, the heroes woke and got ready for the day. James, who had spent more and more time drinking lately, including the previous evening, needed to plunge his head in a barrel of ice-cold water down in the basement of the Wanderer in order to lift the clouds from his head.

The first item on the list was to visit Vydia, so after their breakfast the heroes made their way across a cold and mostly empty city. Vydia welcomed them into her home, introduced herself to Astrid and offered a cup of morning brew.

Luca had brought two items for Vydia in order for her to divine their magical properties; the dome-covered rose and the galleon-in-a-bottle. Vydia said that the weave around the items was complex and she would require more time with both, but she did mention that when she saw the rose for the first time she was struck by a sense of deja vu, and that she immediately recognised the ship to be a miniature of the fabled Daughter of the Sea, a historic battleship in the Lyrian royal navy.

It seemed to Luca that Vydia might also be able to use her divination talents to find out where Hamish could be located, but Vydia claimed she would need something to help her do that; a personal item of Hamish. It became clear to Luca that Vydia did not simply cast spells, like Callum did, but that her abilities were more oracular.

Repeated offers to help heal Vydia’s wounded eye were rejected, while at the same time James felt his stomach turn from the morning brew and he ended up running into the courtyard and retching into a rose bush.

The heroes departed for the Circle in order to inspect Hamish’s room again to make sure they had not missed anything, and possibly to see if they could find a personal item that Vydia could use to cast her magic. Emrys decided to stay behind and talk to Vydia in private.

The start of the conversation between Emrys and Vydia was a bit terse. Emrys decided to break the ice by saying that Vydia’s father, Voriel, was his teacher and mentor and that Emrys was responsible for his disappearance. Vydia explained her dream; se saw her father in a dark room, clutching the bars of a window or door. Her father yelled out Emrys’ name until his voice was hoarse. All around her there was an endless landscape of catacombs. Emrys believed that her dreams meant that his old mentor was still alive, but he also deduced that it was likely that he would not be found on the material plane. Vydia shared both sentiments.

Emrys decided to share some details of how he grew up among the aen adhar, and how he rebelled against the tribe’s interpretation of Sehanine’s teachings. He also admitted that he wore his mother’s last name in rebellion against his father.

In the meantime, the rest of the heroes had made it to the Circle and managed to convince Olafur to escort them back to Hamish’s room again, though it was not as easy as it was the first time. During the walk through the long corridor some of the heroes noticed that several students seemed a little vacant behind the eyes, which raised questions on whether Dark Delirium had made it into the dormitories of the Circle.

Searching Hamish’s room again, James found a hidden note, which read;

“If you value your life, come to talk to us at the camp at Belstone Corner.”

James knew that Belstone Corner was a village about fifteen minutes to the north-east of Kingsport. He also knew that the camp in question was the home of a large gathering of szygani.

At the same time, Luca found a box with letters Hamish had saved which were sent from Fulcaster by his family. Besides the letters, he box held several wooden figurines of knights and soldiers. They were carved out of single pieces of wood and looked like they may have been by Hamish’s hand.

Luca convinced Olafur that he could take the box for the purposes of finding Hamish, but he had to promise to return the box as soon as possible. Luca brought the items to Vydia and asked her to use them to find Hamish before regrouping with the rest at the Wanderer.

The heroes took off for the Elysian gate at the north-eastern part of the ramparts and followed the path to Belstone Corner. The szygani camp was unmistakeable; dozens of colourful vardos standing on the edge of a small stretch of woods near the village edge. The heroes tried to make contact with the szygani which turned out harder than expected. It was not until a familiar young woman appeared from the back of a vardo that things began to look up; Vadoma appeared to be living among the szygani and she introduced the heroes to Ionuţ Ravnos, the leader of the camp and the head of the Ravnos family.

Ionuţ was a tall, lanky man wearing a leather skull cap across his dark, curly hair. He wore a leather vest across a white blouse, with tight maroon pants, high white socks and delicate, pointed leather shoes which seemed popular among the rest of the szygani. He had an olive skin and the thick moustache the heroes had come to expect from most szygani men.

In the short conversation with Ionuţ they confirmed what they had already feared; Hamish was under the “protection” of the Steady Hand and was responsible for the production of Dark Delirium, which the guild was peddling from inside the Grimsdown quarantine.

Feathers White and Black

Previously, the heroes had managed to return from Dr. Arkenward’s sanctum where they had found the third Tablet of the Elemental Eye and met some curious figures that the doctor had kept as prisoners, most of which were from beyond the Seal of Divine Animus.

Tenth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

Having left the Careless Wanderer before the others had woken up, Quentin made his way to the House of the Raven Queen. Entering through the large wooden doors he found that there were several people scattered among the pews of the cavernous, dark interior of the church. He approached one of the silent sisters and asked to speak to cardinal Roark.

I am a petitioner, bringing gifts. I seek audience from the Raven Queen, by the mouth of cardinal Roark.
– Quentin Morvrayne

Quentin found the cardinal near the altar where only days before he and his companions had brought Astrid back from the dead. Quentin explained to the cardinal that he felt attracted to the tenets of the Raven Queen as she seemed to govern the natural order between life and death, standing in stark opposition to the way in which fiends were willing to manipulate the souls of mortals.

I come with the morning, a blunt blade held by no hand. Twice I have been lost, far from home and far from my memories. I cannot be lost thrice into the unknown before I find my purpose and a hand to wield me. One too many times I have seen that which lies beyond the Veil, one too many times I have succumbed to the horror, one too many times I was too weak to stand as tall and as strong as I swore to myself to be. I come to beseech she who presides the threshold to be the one to make me her tool, her blade, her guardian. I bring the gift of my life for her to guide and dispose of, should I be weak, should I be untrue and unworthy, should I fail her.
– Quentin Morvrayne

Cardinal Roark recognised that Quentin was sincere and could be an ally and champion for the Raven Queen and invited him to swear the Oath of the Watchers and induct him into the Order of the Grave Knights. The silent sisters helped the cardinal get ready for the ceremony; spreading incense from large censers and supplying the cardinals with white and black face paint. The cardinal asked Quentin to bare his chest as he swore his oath.

Be vigilant. The threats you face are cunning, powerful, and subversive. Be ever alert for their corruption.

Be loyal. Never accept gifts or favours from fiends or those who consort with them. Stay true to your order, your comrades, and your duty.

Be disciplined. You are the shield against the endless terrors that lie beyond the stars. Your blade must be forever sharp and your mind keen to survive what lies beyond.

Accept death. Death comes to all eventually. Accept it, and you will find a place in the afterlife.

Let souls pass on. Every soul deserves its place in the afterlife. When you see a creature forced into undeath, or a soul forced into bondage, let its soul go free.

Annihilate the unholy. The undead and those who foster them are unholy and wicked. Destroy them before they defile more than they already have

Quentin repeated the words and swore the oath, and as he did so he felt a cold chill run along his bare skin. The goose bumps he felt drew his eyes and he saw that the bumps grew more pronounced until little filaments poked through his skin like fine hairs. They grew longer and thicker and turned into feathers, like that of a raven, covering his shoulders, and arms. To his surprised, as well as the surprise of cardinal Roark, Quentin found that his right arm was not covered with black feathers, but with stark white feathers. This did not stop Quentin, nor did it stop the cardinal, who, despite his surprise, leaned forward and plucked on of the dark feathers from Quentin’s shoulder and put it on a string and placed it around Quentin’s neck as the feathers on his body began to dissipate.

When the incense smoke had cleared Quentin saw that unlike during the resurrection of Astrid the worshippers in the church had been allowed to stay and be witness to Quentin’s oath. He walked out of the church an back into the cold weather and felt like some things had changed significantly for him.

When Quentin returned to the Careless Wanderer he rejoined his companions, who, in his absence, had been talking about how to proceed and what to do next. Wojciech entered the tavern room through the kitchen and came to tell the heroes that he had returned from the Sheridan estate with their horses, their cart, and the greetings from James’ mother. Due to a shortage of space at the stables of the inn he resorted to stabling the horses at The Bridle. The cost of that would be added to the cost of their rooms.

It was around that time that Lauryn came up to Quentin to tell him that another letter had arrived for him as she handed him a small piece of parchment sealed with blue wax showing the heraldry of house Morvrayne, the swan volant. Quentin read the letter to his friends at a whisper:

My dear son,

I have set off to Lyria, together with several guards. We ride alongside the retinue of house Lys and make camp together. They are travelling with over forty people, and every town and city we pass adds to that number. High lord Gauthier’s governs his estates and lands while on the road. Dozens of ravens are sent and received each day.

Rumours are going around the camp that the high lord’s only interest is retrieving his ancestral sword. Towards me he has mentioned that sword, but only that it would be a good asset to both our houses if the Age of Peace has come to an end. Regardless, lady Gwenaëlle’s hand should still be yours. A promise was made, a challenge was set, and you met that challenge. I am proud of you.

By the swan.

Lord Dorian of House Morvrayne

The heroes had pondered for a while what they were going to do next. The winter would soon be upon them and there were many things they considered undertaking. Luca’s friend Hamish was still missing, and there were some thoughts that he might be caught up in the dark delirium which had become quite popular during the city’s strict curfew. It was decided that the first stop, while there was still a bit of daylight available, was to visit the Circle of Magi and secure another audience with the head archmage, Réonan. They might be able to help the heroes in keeping the three tablets safe.

Before their departure, Emrys had continued to observe Astrid. She had been behaving more impulsively in the wake of her resurrection, and the young sorcerer came to the conclusion that perhaps her behaviour was informed by her ideas about the afterlife.

And just as the heroes departed the Careless Wanderer, two crownsguard, flanked by red custodians, came into the establishment to nail a notice to the inside of the door, calling for able-bodied people to join a newly created, royal army to march upon Farcorner and bring the rebel houses to heel. James noted that the notice said that the army would be loyal to the queen, rather than the throne, and he could not hide his cynicism in the wake up what the heroes had seen after reviving the young queen.

The city was cold and empty. The heroes wrapped their cloaks tightly as they stood in front of the Circle of Magi waiting for Olafur to open the door. They were invited inside and after they were tucked away in Olafur’s room adjacent to the lobby they were given a syrupy liquor the colour of honey to warm their bones. The Miðgarðurian was reluctant to disturb the head archmage but eventually relented. When he and Réonan returned, the head archmage asked Olafur to remain outside while they addressed the heroes.

Luca asked Réonan for the Circle’s help in protecting the tablets, but Réonan declined. However, they would consider whether they could think of other ways in which the Circle could help the heroes protect the tablets.

During the conversation James intimated that the tablets were not his goal, or even a point of focus. Réonan asked him what James’ goals were, which he found hard to answer. He said that he used to want to become the king of thieves, but that it was something that he no longer aspired to. Réonan asked him whether he would consider joining the Circle and explore the possibility of him having magical talents.

Luca mentioned that the heroes had picked up several artefacts that eluded his ability to divine their magical properties. He was wondering whether the Circle would be able to assist. Réonan responded by saying that the Circle used to have a very talented diviner, referring to Callum, and that the heroes had already met another diviner who might be able to address their wish, this time referring to Vydia.

James and Luca then brought up their concerns for the prisoners that Dr. Arkenward was keeping in his sanctum, in particular the young noble lady. Réonan admitted that in the tapestry of things that the Circle concerned themselves with, it was low on the list, but they would support the heroes in any endeavours to address the matter.

It was time for Réonan to depart, but before they did so, they gifted the heroes with a ring that would allow the heroes to contact them. When Luca took the ring he immediately recognised the lyrium crystal that crowned the band, as it was that very same crystal that he had given to Eustace, which he in turn had sold to someone from the Circle.

Before the heroes departed the Circle to head back to the Careless Wanderer before the curfew went into effect, Luca got Olafur to sell him a variety of incense and herbs. The one thing that Luca was after to complete the components he needed for a special ritual was charcoal, but unfortunately Olafur confirmed that there was a shortage of charcoal all throughout Kingsport.

When the heroes stepped outside the were surprised by the falling of the first snow. The flakes were large but flimsy and it made their clothing and the cobblestones slick and wet. While walking back, the heroes vented their frustration on Réonan’s position. Quentin was particularly angered by the continued aloofness of the Circle’s head archmage.

The sun had gone down by the time the heroes returned to the Careless Wanderer and the curfew was once again in effect.

A New Course of Action

Previously, our heroes liberated the third piece of the Tablets of the Elemental Eye from the intruders into Dr. Arkenward’s sanctum. They also found and dealt with some of the strange creatures that the royal abjurer had kept prisoner.

Tenth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

After Luca had sent Enyalius back to his home by performing a banishment on it, the young girl asked for an opportunity to persuade the heroes to help her, too. She introduced herself as lady Maya Ironwood and explained that she was taken from her family and wanted to be returned to her family.

The heroes are not overly divided; they do not trust the young girl and decide not to free her. The only one that was not wholly convinced was Quentin, who saw in her a young, highborn girl that had trouble fitting into a world that was unforgiving to free-spirited people. The young girl asked whether the heroes would send a raven with an explanation to Woodbury, addressed to her dame Felicia Ironwood, her mother, which Quentin promised to do.

When the heroes retreated back into the seating room behind the portcullises they did they all felt a strange and unpleasant tingle run down their spine. James turned and sternly looked to all the prisoners, believing that one of them was responsible for trying to influence them. Ludwig, struggling against the weight of his chains as he fluttered in the air on his leathery wings, claimed that it was not responsible!

It was time for the first person to be sent back. Quentin volunteered and Luca confronted him with the devious nature of the Tooth of Thalasis, the daggers that Xamael, in the guise of Melchior had spread among his followers to commit seemingly wanton murder in the name of the Dark Queen. By the time Luca got to the end of his ritual Quentin disappeared with a plop, repulsed by the dagger.

Once Quentin had disappeared, James loudly wondered whether the young knight should get laid at the Silver Cross. Perhaps the women of The Lace would be able to relax him somewhat.

When Maya started pleading for help again, directing her story at Emrys in the hopes of convincing him that she was innocent and that she had been accused of dark deeds only because she was misunderstood, James opened another bottle of wine which he shared with Emrys while Luca rested. The heroes also used the wool inside one of the fancy chairs to plug their ears in the hopes of being less susceptible to the girl’s words.

Eventually Luca asked James whether he could get a bottle of wine as well, which James was happy to oblige. Luca was given a nice bottle of Mettina rosé, which he uncorked and poured out all over the ground. James, repulsed by Luca wasting the wine, jumped up and started to protest, but before he could blink found himself standing in the darkness of Dr. Arkenward’s study in Old Town, Quentin sitting at the desk, patiently waiting for someone to arrive.

James decided to skulk through the residence looking for food and drink. He found food in the kitchen and some wine in a small cellar. He couldn’t help himself and filled his bag up with as many bottles as it would fit. He lost count around twenty-five bottles. He made sure to take the food, as well as a small cask of Dun Argath beer up to Quentin and together they ate.

Luca asked Emrys to take place in the summoning circle that was painted on the floor of the room they were in, asking him to explain what repulsed him in the world, meanwhile eyeing the lute that the half-elf had strapped to his back. Before Emrys could fully form a thought, Luca hand had erupted in fire and he had lunged at the lute, igniting it. Shocked, Emrys whirled around in order to prevent Luca from causing any more damage, but found that he was standing in Arkenward’s study, looking at James and Quentin sitting together, having breakfast.

It was Luca’s turn to banish himself back to the material plane, which turned out to be more difficult than anticipated. He had intended to set fire to part of Arkenward’s library; he could not imagine anything more repulsive than the loss of great works of literature or research. He quickly scanned the bookcase which he intended to burn down, to see if he could rescue a tome, and his eye fell on a book with primordial script on its wooden spine. The wooden covers were carved into a turbulent pattern; like that of choppy waters. The pages were made of thin velum, but he found that he could not open the book. He concluded that the book was special and he put it among the rest of his possessions before trying to set fire to the bookcase. Trying, but failing. He simply could not bring himself to do it.

Changing his approach, Luca cast a translocation spell that put him frighteningly close to the cage of the rat ogre. He had been confronted by one of these beasts in battle several months ago and he still had an uneasy time coming to grips with the terrifying creatures. As the shock of the proximity to the rat ogre turned his bowels to water, he found it adequately repulsive to succeed in banishing himself back to Dr. Arkenward’s study, leaving the sanctum behind.

Soon after the heroes had regrouped, Vydia found them in the study. She had woken up and come to investigate. Relieved that it was the heroes she asked if the intruders had been dealt with. She also asked whether the intruders managed to take anything, destroy anything or harm anything inside the sanctum. This made some of the heroes wonder just how much she had been aware of what Arkenward kept in that sanctum.

Vydia offered the heroes a place to rest, but they declined and decided to return to the Careless Wanderer, where they found that Durham was opening up. After being told that they should really inform the staff when they were planning to occupy a room without being present, and Magda bringing up warm cups of mulled wine the heroes were all ready for some sleep, despite the sun slowly rising over the eastern horizon.

Emrys had found that Astrid had been using his luxurious room to sleep, but also to invite company to help keep the bed warm with her, Lauryn came up with some clean sheets and helped Emrys make the bed.

After several hours of sleep, the heroes woke up in the mid-afternoon. Quentin had been tossing and turning, despite his fatigue and had decided to get up earlier and head out. The rest gathered in the tavern room for food, and they found that Astrid was entertaining people by arm wrestling anyone who would accept her challenge. When Luca asked if Astrid was doing okay, she decided to beat the opponent she had been toying with and pull Luca in to plant a kiss on his mouth, which repulsed him.

Talking to Astrid she seemed reluctant and a bit aimless, saying that she felt she had no purpose since the heroes pulled her from the halls of Odin. Emrys said that they needed her in order to have more adventures together, which made her smile. Luca gave her the gift of the Protection of the Cherubim, promising her that it would help to keep her resilient and fighting, and Emrys claimed that they would have an even better gift at a later time, hinting at the sword they had commissioned for her with Dagran Forgewright. In the meantime she could use the two mundane swords that they had gotten from the smith, and James pulled them from his bag.

Astrid mentioned that the previous evening she had been plagued by a foreboding dream where she saw a ship made from fingernails that sailed across a sea of green waves. On the prow of the ship stood a dark figure holding an axe in each hand, each with a an eye on the blade. She felt that she should seek out that figure and defeat him.

The heroes were not sure what to do with the description of Astrid’s dream and decided to let it sink in and not address it. Instead they had a conversation on what direction to take now that they had recovered a third tablet. One idea was to confide in grand archmage of the circle, the mysterious Réonan, but not everyone seemed convinced that this was the course of action.

Escape from Arkenward’s Sanctum

Previously, the heroes managed to defeat two unsettling, tentacle-faced humanoids who had infiltrated Arkenward’s sanctum. In doing so they recovered another Tablet of the Elemental Eye. The heroes also defeated Venoxxis, the spider creature that was held captive alongside Arkenward’s other prisoners. Now it was up to them to find a way out of the sanctum.

Tenth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

While Luca took rest, the others tried to make themselves useful; Quentin by standing vigil between Luca and Grok, and James and Emrys by investigating the room they were in.

Emrys had found an interesting, high level conjuration spell in one of the books that the tentacle-faced creatures were looking in, but he could not explain to Luca very well why he thought it was significant and decided to let the matter rest. Instead, James asked him to look for information on the Seal of Divine Animus, the Conjunction of the Planes, or on the Blood War. He reasoned that the more context they would have around these large cosmic events would help them navigate the time to come.

In the meantime, James searched the room for valuables. He found many books, tomes, folios and librams that would likely fetch a pretty penny, as well satisfy the butcher’s hunger for esoteric books, but he came to the conclusion that riches just were not as important to him as they once were.

One of the things that caught the heroes’ eyes was a carved map painted on a large sphere that sat in an elaborate cradle which allowed you to turn the sphere and see more of the map. The heroes recognised the Verdant Kingdoms, but quickly realised that there were other such clusters of land, some of which the heroes had heard mentioned in the rare tales of merchants and explorers.

Emrys found notes that Dr. Arkenward had made on the tides of magic and how the waxing and waning of the Seal of Divine Animus influenced it. According to the calculations that Arkenward did a full cycle took about five thousand years and that it was probably another 1250 years until the Seal was at its weakest and magic stood at high sanction. It dawned on Emrys just how old some of the oldest beings in the Verdant Kingdoms must be, and how long ago the cursed crusaders got trapped in Atilesceon’s realm. The realisation made him nauseous and dizzy.

Soon after Luca had regained enough of his strength to go ahead with his plan; he would banish one of the heroes and then drop his concentration before the spell could become permanent. If they were on the material plane, the subject would go to a harmless dimension for a bit, but if they were not, then the subject would go back to the material plane. It would determine where they were, and how they should move forward accordingly.

Luca used Grok, a creature that Quentin had instantly loathed, as a repellent to banish Quentin with a “plop”. Quentin immediately found himself in a dark room, with rain beating against a window pane. He did not immediately recognise where he was, but when a flash of lightning temporarily lit up the room, he saw that he was in Arkenward’s study again. Even before the peal of thunder followed the lightning he found himself back in Arkenward’s sanctum with the rest of his companions.

With the remaining strength that Luca had regained he turned to Grok and banished him too, lying to the strange creature that he would indeed go back to Blue Harbour, where he wanted to go. With another “plop”, Grok was gone, teleported back to Pazunia.

While Luca rested to regain strength again, James heard one of the prisoners call out. It was the bull-headed brute that was caged near the portcullis to the room they were in. James turned to Quentin and got him to open the portcullis, and James entered the room and engaged the minotaur in conversation. His name was Enyalius, a warrior from the Bleak Eternity of Gehenna, and he offered information on a chance to be banished and returned to where he came from.

“I never worry about you, my friend. I never do.”
– James White

It was clear that Quentin did not trust Enyalius and that it would likely be a mistake to go along with what it was suggesting. James asked whether Enyalius was prepared to serve the heroes for one year in exchange for its return to Gehenna, and it said it was prepared to make that deal, with certain limitations; he would not betray his legion, for instance. Quentin questioned the minotaur’s honour and could not be convinced that the minotaur was trustworthy.

While waiting for Luca to recover enough strength, the heroes read through all of the notes they could find on the prisoners;

Ludwig

The lowest ranked of the lesser infernal outsiders, though it will claim it still outranks the Lemure. There is quite a bit of writing which has survived the Age of Fear on imps; impervious to fire and all poisons, and incredibly resistant against attacks from non-silver weapons. Like all infernal outsiders, very resistant against cold-based attacks.

Quite a significant number of them survived through the Great Waning as they got stuck on the material plane. Through my interrogations I have concluded that this imp is not old and wise enough to have survived on this side of the seal since the Age of Fear. It is possible that it managed to be sent through the seal due to its limited strength.

It claims its name is “Ludwig”, but that name has not granted me the control over the imp that I had expected and I have therefore concluded that the name is false.

Grok

The dretch is the first form that abyssal animus congeals into, and while it hardly poses more threat to a trained mage than a goblin or a vodnik, leave it for long enough and it will grow to evolve into a far more loathsome and powerful demon as its animus hardens and matures. Immune to poison, able to emit a noxious vapour and very resistant to elemental attacks, and it has a remarkable aptitude for telepathy. Unlike its more evolved brethren, it has a normal susceptibility to attacks with mundane weapons.

I pulled this one from an abandoned house just outside of Blue Harbour. There were several others but this is the only one that managed to survive long enough to heal from the burn wounds it sustained. The others dissolved into black slag. I would have been worried about someone noticing a pack of missing dretches and coming to look for them had they been infernals, but no such loyalty can be expected from the tanar’ri.

Through the “experiments” I conducted on the dretch I have learned that it calls itself “Grok”, it hails from Pazunia, where it was fighting alongside manes and rutterkins for a demon lord named Baltazo. It does not quite understand how it came to be in Blue Harbour, but from the bits I have been able to compile, it seems that Baltazo has been experimenting with sending over low ranking demons and psuedo-demons.

Vetch

Vetch, as the skaven likes to call itself, is a sly one. It speaks the common tongue, albeit in a broken way. Duplicity, stealth and subterfuge seem to be its tools and trade. As a result, I’ve been having a very hard time getting information out of him that I can trust. I will have to independently verify each bit that Vetch shares.

It seems to have no great love for the rat ogre and considers its brutishness antithetical. It claims to be part of clan Eshin, which is a clan I’ve heard of, but not much is written about. I’ve got to be cautious with this one.

Vetch has shown some interest in my dissection of the tentacle-faced mind flayer and it has remarked that certain organs I’ve extracted can be used to create poisonous substances.

Rat Ogre

The skaven refer to this creature as a rat ogre, but it does not seem to have a particularly strong sense of self-awareness, beyond the primal rage what we see in some of the more monstrous humanoids. It does not have an ability to speak and does not seem to recognise words, names or a reference to it species.

My working theory is that the rat ogre is an engineered subspecies of the skaven, so for the purposes of categorisation I will consider it one of the servitor races.

Interestingly, not all of the skaven clans have turned to creating these abominations. There is a clan, clan Moulder, which specialises in creating not just these abominations, but others as well. The rat ogres are, however, the pinnacle of their achievement.

Buras

Smuggled to Kingsport from Farcorner, this khazra warrior is named Buras Blighthorn and he’s been given to me in order to interrogate him. The usual threats did not seem to appear, and applying force elicited a resigned response. To my surprise Buras was perfectly capable of speaking the common tongue and has turned out to be a rather pleasant conversationalist, intelligent and eloquent.

He’s explained to me many things, including his mission in Farcorner. I’ve reached a point with him that I think I’ll try a different approach and see if I can simply continue my conversations in order to understand the tensions and conflicts between the servitor races better, since there seems to be some animosity towards Enyalius from Buras and Vetch, and vice versa.

It has confirmed what the Circle already suspected, which is that the khazra hail from the Grey Waste of Hades.

Enyalius

What a strange creature the minotaur turns out to be. I have to be careful not to generalise, but from what I’ve learned by speaking to Enyalius, as it calls itself, is that it is a prideful and stoic creature whose only interest is duty. Not surprisingly, I have learned that its rank is that of “legionnaire”, a type of high ranking infantry and reports to Preclo, his “centurion.”

For all the effort I had to make in order to smuggle Enyalius out of the empire, he’s proven to be a bad source of information. It speaks both the abyssal and infernal tongue, but prefers infernal. This one will require more time.

Rogash

Retrieved from among some of the most northern orc, demon worshipping tribes, we have a strange, transformed orc. Blessed, the shamans would say, with the strength of their demonic overlords. They call them “tanarukks”, which seems to be an abyssal bastardisation of the orc word for “fury.”

It is completely useless to me. I have had to keep it unfed in order to deplete it of its destructive tendencies. I know its highly resistant to fire and poison as well as most magics, but its too aggressive to learn anything from as it has no interest in negotiations.

I have one or two more experiments to run on it, and then Rogash, as it calls itself, is bound for the incinerator.

Autopsy

When it became clear to me that some of the threats moved around the ancient waterways I charged some colleagues to investigate the rumours. They found a fair many problematic elements in those tunnels, none were more baffling than this tentacle-faced humanoids. When I went down myself I was eventually confronted by this one. It was tough; taunting me throughout with telepathy and flaying my mind with strange attacks. The source of its “magic”, if I can call it that, was alien to me.

I have yet to be able to dedicate time to understanding the nature of this creature, and a cursory scan of Tobin’s Planar Guide has yielded little of use, except that it vaguely resembled the aberrant denizens of the far realm. If true, it is completely unclear to me whether there are more of them, what they are doing here, what their designs are, and whether they make the waterways their home.

My investigation must continue and I must come up with a proper defence against their psychic attacks. If this creature is an example of the time to come, then we must expand our arsenal of attacks and defences.

After reading each of the notes, Emrys wondered whether Dr. Arkenward sent people to Blue Harbour to investigate the demons, and whether they returned Grok to him. The conversation quickly turned to what to do with the prisoners and whether or not Arkenward had not crossed a line and whether he could continued to be trusted. Quentin believed that while Arkenward had certainly shown a fascination with the creatures there was no indication that he had been corrupted or seduced by them yet.

When Luca finally spoke to Enyalius he offered the banishment to it under the condition that if their paths were ever to cross again it would offer them parlay. Enyalius agreed and said that it would do everything in its power to return to the material plane, where it would rejoin its legion in the Daerlan empire and march on Adelheim.

Luca started the process of banishing Enyalius and needed something that would repel the minotaur and decided on including Emrys in the procedure. With a few well-chosen words, aided by James’ approval in the assessment, Luca described how Emrys was the embodiment of disorder, with his magic being as unpredictable a force as chaos itself. The heroes were very convincing and the expression on Enyalius’ face turned from one of caution to one of utter disgust. And with a “plop”, he was gone.

The heroes concluded that they would leave the rest of the prisoners to the Circle to deal with and it was at that point that the young girl said that her name was lady Maya Ironwood and that she wanted to have an opportunity to convince the heroes to free her too. Both Luca and Emrys were struck by the mention of House Ironwood, the ancestral house of Ser Florianus.