Category: RPG

The Blood of Alban

Previously, the heroes visited Dagran and collected the weapon that he and his apprentice had forged for Astrid. They also visited Emma, in the hopes of gaining her support in talking to Kasia, but found her wrestling with Muirgheal instead. She reluctantly agreed to help with Kasia, provided the heroes made good on their promise to address the trident.

Ninth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is in high sanction, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waxing)

While teamsters and carpenters were still hard at work on Steward’s Square as the sun went down, nearby the Careless Wanderer was packed full of excited fishermen who celebrated their last day in Kingsport. The following day would be the closing ceremony to the competition, and they were preparing to depart the city to go back to their homes and families ahead of the darkness of winter.

Despite the excitement, there was a hint of sombreness, as the fishermen would soon say goodbye to the Careless Wanderer, as well as some of their team. Emrys took the opportunity to talk to Lauryn to see whether he would be permitted to perform some music as the evening’s entertainment. She thought it a good idea and during supper Emrys took out his lute and entertained the guests.

Supper itself was simple; scarcity of ingredients meant that Ramsey had to get creative. Durham promised that despite the simplicity of the food, there was no shortage of drinks. Neamhan made a comment about there being plenty of water, which earned her a derisive response from Durham, claiming that the patrons of the Careless Wanderer had better standards. This was met by cheers from the now more jovial crowd.

Quentin had decided to sequester himself in the basement with a warm bath. Two of the fishermen were taking baths, too. Knowing that they would be on the road a while once they left Kingsport for home, they decided to treat themselves. Both of them were Lyrian, but only one of them had the recognisable Celtician accent of an Acadian. He fondly remembered the Acadian family whose boat they hitched a ride on through the hinterland of Eastmarsh. And with some sadness, he remembered Michel, one of the two guides that captain Randall had arranged to get them from Eastray to Blackbough, who had not survived the trip. There had been so many people cross his path the last couple of months.

Emrys had rarely had such a successful performance. He started light, while people were still enjoying their supper, and then moving on to more emotional and heavier themes. He made sure to instil each and every one of the fishermen, regardless of their allegiance, regardless of their chance of success during the closing ceremony, with a sense of pride, achievement and accomplishment.

The heroes picked up on the fact that the competition was a neck and neck race between the team of Lord Peregrine of House Blackwell, and Lord Aberforth of House Dunkeswell. It was not that long ago that Ser Liam, a sworn sword to House Blackwell, and dame Morena, an equal to House Dunkeswell, had come to a confrontation over something which could sway the outcome of the competition.

Tenth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is in high sanction, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is in high sanction, Night of Cerulean Eyes)

Neamhan awoke from her reverie with a startle, panting and sweating. Her dream had started out pleasantly, with images of a mountainside meadow filled with wild flowers. She had woken up there and she had smelled the fragrance of the flowers, and heard the buzzing of honeybees. The sky had been clear and sunny, while the air was fresh and crisp. She had been on the slopes of Ard Thoradun, close to her village. She had oriented herself and made her homeward way.

Shortly after there was a peal of thunder off in the distance, from the other side of the mountain’s crest. It had filled Neamhan with a sense of urgency and she quickened her pace. The terrain had been difficult and the wind had picked up, which had fuelled her sense of urgency even more. She had taken a chance by taking on the shape of a falcon and taking flight, hoping to get home quicker.

She had recognised her mistake when the storm started to crest the mountain, flowing down the slope like an avalanche. The dark storm clouds had periodically been lit up by arcs of lightning and it betrayed that there had been a long, serpentine monster hiding inside the storm. Maybe, she had thought, the monster was the storm.

When she had been swallowed by the avalanching storm, she had been tossed around. She had lost her bearing. She had been buffeted by wind, by cracks of thunder, by the monstrous serpent. Eventually the leviathan had opened its maw and swallowed her up and the last thing she had heard was the cracking and crunching of her own bones.

Quentin was similarly startled awake with a sense of dread and foreboding coursing through his veins. For him, his dream had started in the saddle of his golden stallion, walking the dusty paths of Albancourt during a summer sunset. The air had been warm and familiar, and abuzz with cicadas. He had dismounted and had picked grapes from across the fence of a local vineyard. He had sat down in the shade of an old, gnarled olive tree to rest.

Night had fallen faster than expected, and the Silvermoon and Darkmoon were nowhere to be seen. Instead, the Bloodmoon had stood in high sanction, larger and brighter than Quentin had ever seen it. Everything around him had been washed in a scarlet glow, as if Quentin was watching the evening through stained glass.

There had been a sudden smell of fire, and small, glowing embers had drifted on the warm wind, though he had not been able to discern the source of it. He had decided to quickly head home, driving his horse hard. He spotted thousands of small, dark shapes flying through the air, transiting the Bloodmoon, banking and heading towards him. He had checked to find that Róisín was not by his side, though Ser Fulton’s serpent shield had been. He had protected himself with the shield as he drove his horse on. The flying creatures had bounced off his shield but had come in ever increasing numbers, biting at the hide of his stallion as well as latching onto any part of his body that was not barded.

Quentin had been forced to grab every once of control to keep the stallion from panicking, but it was at the cost of his own protection. The creatures, which looked like bats but with skeletal heads and sharp fangs, had drawn so much blood from the wounds they had caused on his legs and arms, that Quentin’s arms had felt weak. Eventually he had lost control of the stallion, who had reared and thrown him off. He had fallen hard but had held on to his shield, it did not protect him and eventually he had gotten caught in a torrent of the vicious vampiric creatures and everything had gone black.

When Neamhan steadied herself and heard a ruckus coming from Quentin’s room, which later turned out to have been Quentin voiding his stomach into a nearby chamber pot, she went to check on him. Neamhan convinced Quentin to take more rest after they both shared some details about their nightmares. The conversation took place in elven, and Neamhan noted that Quentin spoke a learned, borderline academic form of elven, which betrayed that he had not learned it by speaking to elves, but rather from a tutor of sorts.

Neamhan departed and went downstairs, leaving Quentin to record the details of his dreams on a piece of parchment, so that he might not forget any detail. Downstairs, Neamhan joins Lauryn in the kitchen for a cup of hot, brown morning potion to which Lauryn adds some thick cream for Neamhan, which made it a lot more palatable to her.

The conversation quickly turned to living in Kingsport and the distrust of elder races, which in turn evolved into the nature of the Red Custodians and their distrust of all things magic. Both women talked about home, about magic, about family and about friends. Neamhan revealed that her best friend was gifted like her, and had a powerful connection to animals. Lauryn, in turn, shared that she came from a modest, and less unusual background and had no magical gifts herself.

When Neamhan asked Lauryn how she could live in a city that was so devoid of life and natural beauty, she defended it by saying that there were a lot of benefits to city life, but also admitted that she missed a bit of colour and had been thinking about growing flowers on the balconies of the luxury rooms. She asked if Neamhan would help her grow a display of flowers, starting on the church room overlooking the House of the Raven Queen.

While everyone was having breakfast, and Lauryn had returned to her duties, most of the fishermen had completely packed up and were getting ready to depart for Steward’s Square. Emrys checked the weather by looking out of the windows, and Neamhan shared an eerily precise weather forecast, which she claimed to have divined by way of her druidic talents; clear weather, with snow in the evening.

Before the closing ceremony of the fishing competition was going to start, Emrys and Quentin decided to walk over to the Southside district and visit L’eau Célestes, a wine shop which seemed to have close connections with some of the more influential people in the city. The reasons was that the proprietor might have an ear to the ground in Beauclair and be a source of information and rumour about what is going on at court that might warrant a visit from Highlord Gaultier Lys.

When Quentin and Emrys found that Steward’s Square was steadily filling up with people. A large canopied main stage had been erected, flying the scarlet banners of the royal house, where the ceremony would take place. On two sides of the square several smaller stages had been created, each carrying the banners of influential houses. Crownsguard were on patrol to secure the square, but there were surprisingly few custodians around.

The shopfront of L’eau Célestes, a charming corner store on the Street of Spices with an elaborate display of flowers arched over the entrance, turned out to be closed. After a polite knock on the door, a halfling woman named Pip answered wearing an elegant, red velvet dress, complete with elbow length gloves. She had beautifully style blonde locks and a charming splash of freckles. Pip introduced herself as Céleste Deschamps’ assistant and explained to Quentin and Emrys that her mistress was getting ready for the celebrations that day.

The front of house was decorated with a curved bar behind which there were casks of wine of various sizes. There was a doorway leading to the rear which had the open space of a tasting room with floor-to-ceiling racks holding hundreds of bottles of wine of different vineyards and years. Back there, behind a decorated privacy screen, Céleste was putting the finishing touches on her outfit, and Quentin and Emrys were not permitted to enter.

Pip invited Quentin and Emrys to take a seat and asked what wine she might present them both. Emrys deferred to Quentin, who in turn chose an Albancourt red, 1236 vintage. Pip excused herself and went into the tasting room to search for the wine. She after a while with a bottle in hand and apologised, she was not able to locate the right vintage, but had found a 1238 bottle.

After pouring three glasses Emrys was the first to try. He tried to make out the different notes, and after a moment Pip impatiently shared that she hated “when people made a spectacle” of tasting wine, speaking to Quentin in a near perfect Beauclairois. Emrys thought the wine was fine, but nothing special, while for Quentin it brought back fond memories of home. Pip correctly guessed Quentin’s identity, having heard of his stay in Kingsport and believing that nobody else in the city would ask for such a specific wine.

Eventually, Mistress Céleste made her entrance in all her splendorous glory. She was dressed in a red velvet dress, similar to Pip, but this one was adorned with accents of white and gold, embroidered to perfection. Her blonde hair was intricately styled, held together by a slender string of pearls. She was a delightful display of modern, Lyrian couture, with heavy Beauclairois influences.

When she welcomed Quentin and Emrys she did so with a delightful Beauclairois accent which sent Quentin to her side, kissing her on the cheeks in triplet, as was customary. Emrys greeted her according to Lyrian customs, by taking her hand and gently touching his lips to the top of it.

Quentin came down to business after the pleasantries and asked whether there was any news from Beauclair, confessing he had been out of touch since his departure in the early spring. He wanted to know about the delegation coming to Kingsport, hoping to learn something so that he would avoid looking like a fool in front of his father.

Quentin and Emrys learned that with the sudden appearance of Dame Josephine at the Beauclairois court, King Clovis was seen to be weak. He had not been challenged for some time, and her appearance exposed him. Highlord Gaulthier had convinced King Clovis that he could liaise with the Lyrian queen and find in her an ally; had Dame Josephine not been turned away at the Lyrian court as well, after all?

As the conversation continued, it became more and more clear that Mistress Céleste was not the one in charge, but that it was Pip, in fact, who was the true head of the wine business, and quite a shrewd mind, with a knack for politics, intrigue and information gathering. Céleste, on the other hand, was the beautiful socialite that could get doors opened.

Highlord Gaulthier had ulterior motives and, according to Pip, was betting on two horses; King Clovis and Dame Josephine. In turn, Lord Dorian was there because he had turned to House Lys to fund setting up a silver mine. Prospectors had found a promising vein, but Lord Dorian had neither the political, nor the financial capacity to exploit it. Much to his surprise he had found the highlord an eager business partner, and could not believe his luck when talk of marriage had turned hopeful.

When Quentin confessed confusion as to why Highlord Gaulthier would take an interest in House Morvrayne, Pip asked him whether he knew the story of the princess and the swans. Quentin recalled the story, and Emrys had certainly heard a version of it. It was the creation myth of the Celtician noble houses.

The story goes that in a land beyond the Cerulean Sea an old, widowed king fell under the spell of a wicked sorceress who convinced him to remarry her. When the new queen was with child, she turned the king’s eleven sons into swans forced them to fly away, securing her child, which she knew to be a boy, to become king. The king was devastated at the disappearance of his sons and poured all of his love and affection on his daughter, Valetta. The queen was furious and tried to bewitch her, but her purity was too strong, so the queen tried to have her killed. The swans rescued Valetta from the attack and flew her away. The old king died from heartache and his land turned to sand. The queen took the throne and ruled over a desert.

The swans flew Valetta across the sea to a green and verdant land of sidhe and fey folk. There she met a sidhe queen with golden hair who told her she could save her brothers. She would have to travel around the lands to gather stinging nettles from around the graves of fallen heroes and knit them into shirts which would allow the swans to regain their human shapes. For the duration of her task, she would have to take a vow of silence; speaking one word would forever condemn her brothers to remain swans.

Valetta began her task and she travelled around finding the graves of heroes and clearing it of nettles, painfully blistering her hands from the stings. Never once did she utter a sound. And dutifully she spent her evenings knitting the gathered nettles into shirts.

One day a young king found Valetta clearing his father’s grave of nettles as he came to pay his respects. He fell in love with her and offered her a room in his castle where she could continue her knitting. Eventually he asked for her hand in marriage and she accepted. The priest who was the perform the ceremony was convinced that Valetta was a witch, but the young king did not believe him.

One night, when Valetta was almost done with the last shirt, she ran out of nettles and was forced to go to a nearby graveyard to collect more. The priest followed her and noticed that the necrophages refused to approach her. He took their fear of her purity as evidence of her guilt and ordered her to be put on trail for witchcraft.

Because Valleta could not speak in her own defence, she was sentenced to death by burning at the stake. While awaiting her punishment she continued to knit the last shirt. She continued knitting even as she was lead away to be executed, determined to continue up to the last moments of her life.

The executioner lit the fire and it began to spread around her. The swans swooped in and tried to lift her from the fire. Desperate, she threw the shirts over the swans. Her brothers returned to her human forms, all except Alban, the youngest, who had a swan’s wing instead of an arm, due to the shirt not having been completed.

Valetta was now able to speak the truth but she choked on the smoke and lost consciousness. Instead, her brothers explained her innocence. As they did so, the fire around the stake extinguished and flowers suddenly bloomed from the charred wood. The king plucked one of the flowers, a lily, and placed it on Valetta’s chest, reviving her.

They were married soon after. Each of the brothers went to found their own families, including young Alban. His swan wing made him feel like he did not belong and he was overcome with melancholy. One day, he was visited by a queen with golden hair, who invited him to come with her to join the sidhe.

Pip asked Quentin why he thought House Morvrayne had often made disadvantageous marriages. It is rumoured that the marriages are made to preserve the Blood of Alban, a particular sidhe bloodline. After all these generations the Blood of Alban might still be strong, but House Morvrayne had paid the price in political capital.

“Despite House Morvrayne’s impoverished political and financial status, Highlord Gaulthier still allowed for his daughter to marry you,” Pip said. Quentin frowned. “But Lord Lys does not have a daughter,” he stammered, while simultaneously his left hand searched for something missing from around his right wrist.

The Difference Between Urgent and Important

Previously, the heroes spoke to William of Eastwarren, the handsome lieutenant of the place crownsguard, about the queen’s troubling behaviour and promised they would attend the final ceremony for the annual fishing competition, which would mark her first public appearance since her illness. They also attended a funeral ceremony for Hamish at the church of the Raven Queen, lead by Quentin, for whom the ceremony also marked a deepening of his faith.

Ninth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is in high sanction, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waxing)

The heroes continued their day in the middle of the afternoon, leaving them with several hours of daylight, and, crucially, with several hours before the curfew went into effect.

Their first goal was to visit Forgewright Arms to see about the sword the group had commissioned to celebrate Astrid’s recovery. Their journey took them past Steward’s Square, which was abuzz with carpenters building a large stage, which would serve to conduct the award ceremony for the fishing competition and celebrate its winners. Teamsters and their ox-driven carts were delivering construction materials banners, while seamsters were decorating the square with the red banners of house Valois.

The Street or Spices, which normally would be bustling with trade, was quiet and empty. The Street of Steel was as busy as ever, with smoke rising up from various forges, though there were no merchants about purchasing the craftsman’s wares. Instead, the forges were lit to provide weapons for the queen’s royal army.

The same was true for Dagran Forgewright’s establishment. The dwarf was working the bellows to keep his forge at the right temperature. The square chested dwarf with the bald, soot-covered pate and steel grey beard was happy to see the heroes and said they must have felt their ears burning, as he had planned to inform them that he had completed his task.

He lead the heroes deeper into the forge, where weapons and armour were, crafted for the army, were readily on display. With a word, Kargath, the young, orc apprentice everyone in Kingsport knew to be Dagran’s bonded servant, brought out a bundle in which a beautiful greatsword was wrapped. Kargath misspoke and betrayed that the bond between the dwarf and orc went beyond that of master and servant, but the dwarf’s response indicated that he trusted the heroes to keep his fatherly relationship with the boy to themselves.

The brutal blade was beautifully crafted but simply adorned. This had been Kargath’s work. Astrid took the sword and tested its balance and seemed happy with what she held. Despite its simple adornment, there was one thing that stood out; a singular lyrium crystal, blue of colour, had been socketed in the guard of the hilt.

Dagran asked Astrid to steel herself, as if anticipating a hard blow. She found it difficult until Kargath, from her blind spot, suddenly swung a heavy blacksmith’s hammer at her. To everyone’s surprise but Dagran and Kargath, the crystal on the blade radiates a blue light and a magical shield shaped like a kite deflected the hammer. This power came from the socketed crystal.

Dagran explained that these weapons were called “defenders” by the dwarves and that the socketing of lyrium crystals was ancient, even by dwarven standards. It had not been done in many generations.

Dagran explained that the acquisition of a lyrium crystal by Dunatrim Hardstone at a Bournemouth auction had been a watershed moment for the dwarves. Dagran had gained access to ancient crafting manuscripts belonging to Ard Thoradun because he had a lyrium crystal in his possession. His success had boosted his standing among the dwarves. He was the informal ambassador to the Lyrian throne, he explained, but due to Kargath he was no longer permitted to live in Ard Thoradun.

The dwarven smith admitted being happy to have helped the dwarves rediscover and unlock some of these long dormant crafting secrets, but was sad about the consequences; the only reason he was successful was because of the rising tides of magic, and those tides brought with them a promise of horror and suffering.

Emrys asked Dagran whether the dwarven crusaders had made it back to Ard Thoradun, which was something the smith confirmed. The dwarves venerate their elders and Ser Kadagar Ashbeard was hailed as a champion. This had thrown the politics under the mountain in disarray, but ultimately Dagran felt that the knowledge Ser Kadagar and his fellow crusaders possessed about fighting demons was ultimately beneficial.

Neamhan revealed that she hailed from the slopes of Ard Thoradun and Dagran bowed deeply, welcoming the aen gwynt at his forge.

It was time for the heroes to head to the Sacred Baths of Sedna, on the banks of the river Lyn, not far from Dagran’s forge. The dwarf insisted to Luca that no payment was required for the blade, and insured him that they could count on the dwarf whenever they needed his aid.

Just down a small flight of steps to the quayside entrance to the baths. The stone door was opened by Dagmær, who seemed worried but somewhat hopeful to see the heroes. She said that the priestess was in her chambers and the heroes continued through. The corridor was warm and humid, smelling of sage and mint.

Astrid stopped and asked Dagmær something in Helian. The acolyte responded and Astrid followed the heroes. Before knocking on Emma’s door Astrid explained that Emma was not feeling well.

The heroes found Emma sitting on the bed of her sparsely furnished room. Muirgheal was laying on the bed behind her. When she looked up and saw Quentin come through the door first, she said; “Ah, knight, have you come to relieve me of my curse?” Her tongue was sharp with bitterness. “What about the discs? We had an agreement.”

It quickly became clear that Emma had been worn down by Muirgheal’s influence and had grown increasingly frustrated. The heroes had promised to help rid her of the weapon and she hoped it would silence the sea shanty that had been following her around. It was clear that part of her torment came directly from the weapon, which housed a forceful, Senhadrim soul and follower of Dagon, the Father of the Deep and enemy of Sedna.

Another part of her torment came from hearing a particular sea shanty everywhere, which she had first heard hummed by Muirgheal, but since has only heard in troubling dreams. She believed it was connected somehow to the woman in the azure cloak which the heroes had seen when the Old Queen had been attacked by drowners on the river Bourne.

For a second time, Quentin used the resonance of Róisín to make contact with the soul inside the trident. His intention was to see whether anything had changed since the first time he made contact, but alas, he was once again transported to that stormy bay and was witness to tempestuous, grizzled man booming threats at him from across the water. Muirgheal, filled with zealotry and thunder, rejected Quentin and claimed that he was there for Emma, claiming her in the name of Dagon.

Quentin saw no hope to learn anything more and broke connection. He once again pledged to help Emma be rid of Muirgheal and Luca hinted that it could be kept at the Newport vault. This lead him to explain to Neamhan where the Arms of the Senhadrim came from and where the heroes had found theirs. Emrys also have a rundown of the arms the heroes knew the existence of; Toruviel, Blackstar, Muirgheal, the Twin Gladia and Lash. Róisín, notably, was not one of them.

The heroes explained that they were hoping to enlist Emma’s help in talking to Kasia about her encounter with Epidemius. She was willing to help, but explained that she could only do so after she had fulfilled her obligations during the ceremony of crowning a winner at the fishing competition that she was invited to be a part of.

As she was want to do, Emma imparted some wisdom on the heroes; if they were constantly focussing on those things that were urgent, they would never address the things that were important. She urged them to consider what was urgent and what was important, and not neglect one over the other. She implied that the heroes were reacting to everything and therefore distracted from the things that were important. Some of the urgencies could be delegated to the allies the heroes had been fortunate enough to gather along the way. One of these allies, Emma reminded, could be Bláthnaid, the wellspring that originated underneath Garamond Hill upon which sat the royal palace, and whose waters nourished the gardens the queen loved. She might be a source of information the heroes could turn to in order to learn about what was going on inside the palace walls.

Emma also reminded the heroes that some of them, herself and James included, still had an outstanding debt to the Sidhe. If that was not addressed it would become urgent soon too.

An agreement had been reached about Emma’s help in talking to Kasia, and the heroes decided to depart. Before leaving, Neamhan left a watery sculpture in a water bowl on Emma’s desk. She had been playing with it to occupy herself, especially after she had run afoul of Emma by trying to school the Lady of Lakes on the duality that lay at the core of the power of water. Emma, annoyed, made it a point to freeze and destroy Neamhan’s sculpture.

Astrid and Dagmær exchanged a few words in Helian on the way out and the acolyte seemed reassured. And the heroes climbed the steps from the quayside level to the Knightsbridge and walked back to the Careless Wanderer before the curfew went into effect.

Farewell to the Dead

Previously, the heroes were plagued by dreams of summer, which turned into nightmares. The handsome lieutenant William of Eastwarren visited the Careless Wanderer incognito in order to explain the darkening situation inside the palace.

Ninth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is in high sanction, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waxing)

When Emrys awoke, he found himself on the bank of a river which snaked its way below the canopy of a grand forest. He must have dozed off. It was a warm day, but the rush of the water, and the shade from the trees made his stay at the river a pleasant one. Though he could not quite remember its location, he recognised the spot to be not too far from his home in the Riverlands.

Emrys got up and started looking around, trying to orient himself. He found that Toruviel was not by his side, and as if struck by wild inspiration, he decided to check whether the petrified rose was still among his belongings. While he found that the wooden plate upon which the rose normally set fixed, as well as the glass dome which protected it, were still both there, the rose itself was gone.

Curious and unconcerned, Emrys started to walk. He quickly found a hillock that seemed somewhat familiar to him. Struck by déjà vu, he walked around the hillock to explore. The hillock was steep and covered in all manner of fragrant plants. A ring of thick trees stood sentinel on the hill’s brow. Water cascaded down a small fall and into a clear pool on one side of the hill, and close by a pathway started which lead up. Marble flagstones were hidden beneath centuries of growth, and remnants of marble arches stood along the path leading up.

The path ended near the top of the hill where the trees parted to reveal a beautiful but haggard looking garden. Marble columns, in various states of collapse stood around the garden, circling a dried up fountain, topped with a statue of two elves in a romantic embrace. The entire affair was covered with the most marvellously blooming rose bush. There is a reverence to the site that is unmistakable. It’s not quite religious, but Emrys got the sense that it was a site of remembrance.

For an instant, the warmth turned to chill, the dappled sunlight piercing through the canopy turned into a bleak grey sky looming behind barren, snow-covered trees. As fast as the sight of winter came, it is once again replaced by the warm summer’s afternoon.

Emrys’ sense of déjà vu grew stronger, and then he remembered; this was where he and his companions battled the Procyon, outside of Allenham. That triggered a flood of memories, not quite Emrys’ own, and he recognised the woman to be Deithwyn, the Lady Without Ending, ruler of the Palace of White Flame at the heart of the Worthwilde and leader of the Aen Canell. The man in the embrace was Mindaran Chillwind, her lover, who, according to legend, mysteriously disappeared. Emrys noticed that Deithwyn was holding a beautifully carved rose in her hands.

And without warning, winter had returned, the trees were bare and the sky grey. A cold wind blew through the forest and chilled Emrys. Suddenly, he saw a tall, slender figure, with long, spindly arms and legs climb over the brow of the hill. Wearing a red shroud to cover skin as pale as the winter sky, the woman carried horns upon her head that looked like a glaive. In an eerie and unnerving manner she crawled over the brow of the hill and with an inhuman speed she reached the statue of the lovers in front of Emrys and snatched away the rose that Deithwyn held. With the same, inhuman speed, she retraced her path back over the brow of the hill, but in reverse.

When Emrys had recovered from the shock he heard wolves coming from all sides. Before he could get his bearing, the wolves were upon him, tearing him apart. Startled, he sat upright in bed, panting and sweating, just in time to hear a knock on the door announcing the arrival of his companions, together with lieutenant William.

When lieutenant William had departed, the heroes turned their attention to Hamish’s funeral. Luca decided that he wanted to do it sooner rather than later. Several options are discussed, including keeping Hamish’s body in state for a while, organising a wake (before or after the funeral), and discussing who would (and would not) be welcome at the funeral.

The decision was made to head to the Church of the Raven Queen and upon departure Neamhan uses her innate abilities to prevent cold air from rushing inside the warm tavern. She had been doing that from inside the tavern whenever someone would enter, much to the appreciation of the fishermen inside. This time, however, she was doing it while walking outside and exposing herself to the scrutiny of the custodians. Luca warned her that the custodians were distrustful of magic and condemned any public display of it.

The heroes walked the short distance from the Careless Wanderer to the church and found that the thick, carved doors were open. Two silent sisters stood inside, on either side of the door, welcoming people in. Quentin asked the heroes to wait while he made arrangements, and went inside. While the others waited, several people joined the line waiting to go inside, including Olafur. Mistress Esmeralda d’Ortega, the archmage for the Circle of Abjuration was there, accompanied by a tall, bald man deep in his middle years, with a high, pointed collar and long robes. An older, plain faced man with a beard and a skull cap also stood in line.

Quentin found cardinal Roark at the altar and explained his intentions. The cardinal told him he could use his chambers to change. There, Quentin found a plain, black robe, which he donned. A small bowl of ash was set up, which he used to turns his face pale like he had seen the cardinal do before. Quentin washed his hands in a bowl of clear water, before displaying the raven’s feather prominently around his neck.

The heroes and the rest of the attendees outside were lead inside by the silent sisters and met by Quentin in the central isle. Quentin lead the attendees down the isle to the transept and headed left in front of the altar, towards an area of the church devoid of pews. The area was the home of large slabs of pale stone, set up underneath a window overlooking the western horizon. The setting sun fell through the red windows, casting long shadows across the church.

Quentin asked the heroes to present Hamish’s body and directed them behind a black lacquered privacy screen set up in front of one of the stone slabs. Luca brought forth James’ bag and hesitated in opening it. He felt Astrid’s hand on his shoulder and she helped him to retrieve Hamish’s body. Overcome with emotions, Luca felt the need to tidy Hamish up, but Quentin stopped him, telling him that there is no shame in death.

Quentin took over. One of the silent sister presented him with a knife, which Quentin held aloft before using it to cut away Hamish’s clothing, leaving him as naked as the day he was born. Another silent sister presented a bowl of water and vinegar, and together with a sponge, Quentin cleaned Hamish’s body.

A bronze bowl filled with the fine ash of an oak tree were presented and, again, Quentin lifted it aloft before setting it down to rub the ashes onto Hamish’s skin. Cardinal Roark, who had been standing to the side, stepped up and handed Quentin a heavy bronze censer which emitted a strong incense. Quentin walked around the stone slab upon which Hamish rested in a cloud of fragrant smoke. Twelve times deosil, and twelve times widdershins, representing the cycle of day and night.

One has come to cross the Threshold, o Majesty. Hear my plea, hear you’re servant’s words.

I wash him with the water, to cleanse them of its earthly impurities. I anoint him with the ash, to remind the soul of the transience of its body. I walk him through the smoke, to ease his passage into the realm of the spirits.

I ask you to grant him mercy, and I deliver him to the Halls of Judgment, where you shall weigh him and guide him to his final destination.

O Faceless Guise, o Raven’s Claw, beat your fierce wings in the deep chasms of Latherna, spread your scent, your power burning to the West. As the sun rests, so shall this soul.

I bid him farewell.

Quentin dipped his fingers in oil and touched Hamish’s forehead, drawing a stylised shape of two spread wings in the ash. Then the silent sisters came to wrap the body in a white shroud, standing in stark contrast to their black robes. For a moment, all of the colours seemed to be sucked from the world, leaving everything in greyscale.

The body was carried to the rear of the church and out into a courtyard where a funeral pyre was waiting. The shroud was soaked in myrrh-scented oil and a torch was passed to Quentin by cardinal Roark. Quentin called for any tributes to be placed on the pyre, and Olafur stepped forward to place some hand-carved toy figures on the pyre. The plain-faced man placed several flat stones on the pyre, and Luca followed by tearing out several pages from his prized book and placing them with the rest of the items.

The fire, once lit, spread fast. The smoke veiled the ugly part of the process away from sensitive eyes. The smell of myrrh filled the air. As the smoke ascended, the sound of a large bird could be heard and Astrid eagerly looked to the skies.

Lady Miranda stood in the doorway to the courtyard moments later, dressed in full regalia, her helmet resting under her arm. Not long after she went back inside, followed quickly by mistress Esmeralda and her bald companion. The plain-faced man followed, and Olafur lingered a few moments longer. Luca was last to leave.

Inside, as the heroes passed through the church to head out of the front entrance, they passed lady Miranda talking to cardinal Roark near the privacy screen in the western chapel. She ordered the bones of her brother John to be delivered to lady Olivia at Hungerford, saying that he deserved to be interred with the rest of his family.

Outside the front entrance two crownsguard stood watch over Frostfeather. When lady Miranda came out she remarked that it was a very dignified farewell and conveyed her condolences before setting to the skies on her mount.

The plain faced man came to talk to Luca, introducing himself as Cornelius Black, Hamish’s uncle. He admitted not being in touch with Hamish much, but having given him a home when he had first arrived in Kingsport. He was working at the Magisterium and offered his help in case Luca or any of the other heroes needed anything. Shortly after he departed.

Neamhan decided to ask Astrid whether Frostfeather was a giant eagle, which Astrid found preposterous, saying that it was a griffon. When pressed on the size, Astrid said that it was simply big, but certainly not giant. Perhaps northeners had a different idea of what “giant” meant.

Back at the Careless Wanderer, Neamhan, who had felt the urge to shift into the shape of a goat, which she knew to be Luca’s favourite animal, in order to make him feel better. She crept up the staircase and waited for a moment where she felt she was unobserved and shifted. Before she could respond to the sound of a tingling bell, she felt something jump on her back, grabbing a hold of her mane and yell “Death to summer! I have found my mount!” Neamhan decided to charge down the staircase and into the tavern, which made Wyn scatter and hide behind the bar.

Luca and Emrys are fascinated by Neamhan’s ability to transfigure her shape and ask her whether it hurts, which it does not according to her. They hypothesise that perhaps her magic is different, or there’s another element that sets her ability apart from others that had the rare ability to transfigure themselves or others.

The conversation turned to deciding on the next steps. A long topic of conversation was on ways in which Quentin could prevent having to relinquish Róisín when the Beauclair delegation arrived in Kingsport. Ideas about creating forgeries were shared, but that was made all the more precarious when a courier came to deliver another letter from Falka to Luca:


I often feel that while I am busy studying history, you are busy writing it.

Yes, I am quite familiar with Epidemius as well as the Liber Bubonicus, due to my connection to the Order of the Shield and having grown up in Dunagore. I literally wrote a book about it. I will start work on a summary right away, which I will send before I set sail for Kingsport. Please make arrangements for my stay.

Also, you should know that my friend Corinne – Do you remember her, she works at the Landsdowne auction house? – has informed me that Villem Landsdowne is currently in Kingsport, awaiting a delegation from Beauclair. He is on retainer in order to authenticate an ancient sword when they arrive. If rumours about you and your companions are to be believed it will be of interest to you to know that.

Speak to you soon.


More ideas on deception were raised, to the point of Luca using his magic to impersonate Villem Landsdowne, until Quentin explained that his goal was to transcend his position as being “merely an heir in a line of succession”, which would be jeopardised if he was caught in deceit. The discussion was tabled. There was still time before the delegation would arrive, which at the earliest would be the Fourth Day, Second Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262.

It was decided that with the remainder of the day, the heroes would visit both Emma at the Baths of Sedna, and Dagran at his forge, both of which were relatively close to one another. Then tomorrow, the heroes would attend the closing ceremony for the fishing competition where they would hopefully get a better understanding for the queen’s state of mind.

Falka’s Letter on Epidemius


I often feel that while I am busy studying history, you are busy writing it.

Yes, I am quite familiar with Epidemius as well as the Liber Bubonicus, due to my connection to the Order of the Shield and having grown up in Dunagore. I literally wrote a book about it. I will start work on a summary right away, which I will send before I set sail for Kingsport. Please make arrangements for my stay.

Also, you should know that my friend Corinne – Do you remember her, she works at the Landsdowne auction house? – has informed me that Villem Landsdowne is currently in Kingsport, awaiting a delegation from Beauclair. He is on retainer in order to authenticate an ancient sword when they arrive. If rumours about you and your companions are to be believed it will be of interest to you to know that.

Speak to you soon.


Dreams of Summer

Previously, the heroes had received a letter from lady Ulrikke, indicating that she was in Kingsport for the winter and was keen to reconnect. James also visited the Careless Wanderer to provide the heroes with Hamish’s body, some items her recovered from the skaven in the waterways, and he even gave his magical bag to the heroes on a loan. Neamhan visited Quentin in order to communicate with Róisín.

Ninth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is in high sanction, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waxing)

Quentin and Neamhan came downstairs into the tavern and found that it was early enough for most fishermen to still be asleep. They found a table near one of the two hearths and put some logs on the smouldering embers that remained from the night before. Soon after Lauryn came stumbling down the stairs, not quite ready to take on the day. She went into the kitchen where Ramsey was kneading dough and baking loafs of bread in the large oven, and made herself a hot drink. She called it a hot, brown morning potion, and she offered some to Quentin and Neamhan, explaining that it was made from ground beans and hot water. Soon after trying that hot, brown morning potion, Ramsey came out of the kitchen with some food he had been working on. Rationing some of the ingredients in preparation for the winter, he had developed some round pastries made from dough, some topped with sugar, others had a jam filling. He was unsure what to call them; hole cakes, circle sweets or perhaps sugar wheels. It was a good start of the morning.

Ser Liam of the Cloakwoods, still injured from his confrontation with Dame Morena of Hittesleigh where he tried to keep Grimnir Bouldertoe from being taken by House Dunkeswell, briefly joined the heroes as Luca came downstairs and tried some of the sugar wheels. Neamhan, ever inquisitive, asked about the way in which a large city like Kingsport gets their food, claiming that her tribe could find everything it needed within an hour of their home. Ser Liam explained that the lands of Northshire were too coveted to support enough farmland to feed a city of Kingsport’s size. Instead, the region of Fairfields, in the east of Lyria, had very fertile lands that were worked by some of the most experienced farmers. The food produced there was transported by ship to feed all the major cities around the Lyrian gulf.

Luca looked a bit haggard, and when Astrid finally joined she also looked as if she had not had a good night’s sleep. Both had been afflicted by vivid dreams. Astrid had been walking the cliffs overlooking the Bay of Teeth close to Hammerstrand, enjoying the mild weather when suddenly an enormous glacier loomed over the horizon and ruthlessly pushed onto land, crushing everything in its way. The ice was dark and even darker shapes slithered inside of it. Astrid said she could not outrun the ice and ended up being crushed by it.

Luca dreamt of a warm, late summer evening inside a small church, where he had been reading through the modest collection of books the church had in its library. Warm light fell through the stained glass windows. In front of Luca lay a journal and he read the three short entries on the open pages;

Given the opportunity, the sisters will approach you in order to strike a bargain. You just have to will it to happen and they will reveal themselves.

I have seen them drink in the blood of the first born and stretch the skins of the virgins. I have seen them dance naked in the blood soaked soil at the base of the tree. I have seen their dark pendants soak up the sanguine life spilling from their mouths after they drank their fill. The glee. The glee!

[Poor handwriting] They have promised me a reward for my sacrifice. They have promised they will let me sleep a dreamless sleep again, and release the dead in our graveyard from their control, and they will let the villagers make their own choice in who they want to follow. They promise me that the pain will soon subside. I can still pray with one hand. I can still carry the Book of St. Catherine with me as I go and talk to the villagers. This time they will hear me and they might finally trust me, for I have sacrificed part of myself for them. Just like St. Catherine sacrificed herself for Ser William.

There were more entries, but these were the last three. Luca suddenly recognised the church he was in as the church of Paladine just outside of Blackbough. When he had been there the church had been abandoned and in ruin. He suddenly wondered whether what he was seeing was real or an elaborate illusion and quickly the truth came crashing into reality, revealing the broken church he remembered. It was dark outside and window was blowing through the broken windows, snow started falling through the broken roof.

Luca walked to the entrance and saw that necrophages were stalking through the snow-covered graveyard outside. He retreated back inside the church and suddenly heard a chattering. Snow start falling harder; thicker snowflakes quickly covering everything around. Long, wiry arms and hands gripped the doorframe of the broken front door, first one pair of hands, but more and more. The head that pulled itself through the door was that of Gryza, with her regal jawline, tight mouth and a veil of flesh covering her forehead and eyes. As she moved through the door the extra sets of hands fell down around her hips like a skirt of arms and hands.

Gryza, Sister of the Grove

As she advanced on Luca he tried to reason with her, asking why she had brought him to Blackbough. With the voice of her and her sisters she claimed she was there to retrieve that which did not belong to Luca. He responded that there was little for him to give, that most of him was already claimed by others. In response she snatched his scarab brooch from where it held his cloak in place and retreated by outside, walking in reverse. As she faded from sight, the necrophages rushed in and pounced on Luca, tearing him apart. With that sudden death he had sat upright in his bed, panting and sweating and his heart pounding.

Back at the breakfast table the conversation turned to times where things seemed simpler, when the heroes were getting paid good coin for their efforts by house Sheridan. Neamhan asked Astrid whether she missed home, to which Astrid responded that her goal was to gather enough coin for a ship. Neamhan asked her how much it would take, and Astrid confidently answered that it would take ten thousand gold crowns. Astrid said she missed her family and Neamhan asked Astrid to tell her something about them. Astrid did not know who was still left, but only knew that those that mattered the most were not there anymore.

When Neamhan asked whether Quentin missed his family and he responded that he did not. He felt no strong tie to his family, but he did feel as if there was someone he should miss, and once again he reached to one of the leather bracers around his wrist.

Luca shared that he came from a family of pig farmers, living in a hamlet in the Elder Foothills which was so small that it had no name. One of the things he was fond of was that his father used to make Applejack, a home-made liquor made from apples, like a light brandy. This caught Astrid’s attention; she loved fruit and explained that they had very little of it where she lived.

It was at that time that lieutenant William entered the Careless Wanderer, dressed in common clothing but still wearing his sword at his side. He was wearing a heavy, hooded cloak which was laden with snow. It hid his handsome features from the fishermen in the tavern, but they were too busy with their breakfast to look up from their plates to notice.

It was quickly decided that it would be best to talk to lieutenant William in Emrys’ room, which was the only room big enough to host them all. Emrys had not yet come downstairs and when everyone entered his room it became clear why; he too had been dealing with dreams which had frustrated his rest.

When the group had found some privacy in Emrys’ luxurious room, and Quentin had vouched for Neamhan’s discretion, William explained that queen Isabella had not been herself since her recovery from her illness. She had mood swings, was more forceful, ruthless and harsh. She had initiated the assembly of a royal army to send them to subjugate the rebel houses in Farcorner. She had also been ignoring the opinions of the Queen’s Council and demanding they raise taxes and had invited members of the houses on the Queen’s Council to become guests at court as wards, which was tantamount to being hostages to the throne.

Quentin managed to urge William on to share more. With great difficulty, he shared that the queen had dismissed all of her handmaidens – all except lady Annabella. He said that the queen was keeping all servants and guards at a distance, and yelling could be heard from the queen’s chamber at all hours of the day and night. Whenever the queen engaged with servants, including William, she was abusive, even going so far as lashing him herself.

The queen had commanded that some people were found; a Mazurian man by the name of Fedor, a Lyrian called Melchior, a dwarf named Dagnamiir, an elf named Lathorael, and someone named Lash. The heroes recognised them to be the the many names of Xamael the Defiler, an agent of the Dark Queen, Takhisis, who had  been responsible for the queen falling ill. None could imagine how the queen had found out who had been responsible for her malady.

Luca mentioned that it was likely the heroes would need to see the queen in the near future, and William explained that they might no longer be as welcome as they once may have been. “She’s not the person you met in the watergardens all those months ago.”

Lieutenant William of Eastwarren

When William was about to leave, after explaining how the heroes could get in touch with him, Neamhan noticed how handsome he was and she offered him a handful of berries. He was quite delighted by them and said that his parents used to grow gooseberries in the garden patch behind their hut in Eastwarren. When Neamhan called him a pretty human, he was caught off guard but thanked her for the compliment.

When the lieutenant had left Emrys asked whether it would be a good day to arrange for Hamish’s funeral, which everyone agreed with.