Category: RPG

An Inevitable Confrontation

Previously, the adventurers, still stuck in the recurring nightmare of Old Llygad, hatched a plan to ambush and defeat the flying demons before the cursed crusaders of the Silver Crusade went to battle. They fought and managed to defeat Baraxxis the Balor, who was leading the flying demons, but not without a heroic effort. It was, however, enough to tip the scales of the main battle squarely in the favour of the crusaders, breaking the curse and liberating them from their torment.

Second Day, Third Wik, Æftera Līþa (Pasture Mōnaþ), 736th Year of the Crusade

After the battle was over and the consequences and ramifications of their win had slowly settled in, most of the crusaders made their way back to camp. When the sun had set over the hills to the west, the crusaders celebrated. Cautiously, around big bonfires with cups of wine. The darkness of a night they hadn’t seen in thousands of years was unsettling and the firelight and wine gave them courage.

The heroes came together to talk about the next steps, confident that the curse had been broken the moment they crossed the middle of night into the next day.

Third Day, Third Wik, Æftera Līþa (Pasture Mōnaþ), 736th Year of the Crusade

The heroes spoke at length about what to do next; about whether they should depart from Old Llygad by themselves or find a way to return the crusaders who were now free from their curse.

They quickly decided that it would be best for them to rescue the crusaders from Old Llygad, but the logistics of that decision proved a complication. While the ritual that they had found in the study on the second floor of the Crimson Tower allowed for very powerful arcanists to return large groups of people, Luca was only able to return a dozen or so people. Even if he were to preform the ritual repeatedly, it would require a volunteer to sacrifice themselves each time, which might be a very high price to pay in order to return more than five hundred people.

Eventually, everyone decided to either join in the revelry or get the rest they deserved. As it became later in the night and the wine kept flowing, some of the revelry turned pretty grim as the fragile sanity of the crusaders began to buckle under their intoxication. Emrys, who had remained awake, used the opportunity to perform a rousing speech to the troops in his guise as Prior Benedict, which calmed some of the more volatile emotions and kept the situation in the camp from spiralling out of control. It was very deep into the night before Emrys would find his bed in the commander’s tent.

When morning arrived, James went out to the battlefield only to find that the apothecaries of Pholtus were there to collect the bodies of the fallen and send them off in large funeral pyres. As James was surveying the scene, he was joined by Ser Estienne, who told him that he had kept an eye on the tower and could report that there had been movement spotted on the balcony. Due to the continued shimmering dome it remained unclear who, or how many people were in the tower, but the tower was definitely not dormant.

Another interesting and unexpected development was that the camp had started to wake up and was getting ready to depart and march north towards Gryphon’s Roost. Now that the battle was over and the curse had ended, the crusaders were eager to depart and put as much distance between themselves and that dreadful tower as they could. It seemed that they were unaware that they were in an alternate reality and that there was no departure; at least by means of conventional travel.

With all of that news it was decided to gather everyone at the commander’s tent and wake up Emrys. Soon, the knights started to gather outside of the commander’s tent, eager to get their orders from their Prior. Inside, however, a discussion was ongoing on how to proceed. The choices were thus;

The heroes could go towards Isobel’s Vale and use the Fey crossing to depart Old Llygad. Another option was for the heroes to ask each of the knights to find a volunteer among their men who would sacrifice themselves so the rest could be returned using the ritual. Lastly, the idea of assaulting the tower and using the portal at the top floor was also on the table.

None of the plans seemed to be ideal. When talking to the knights gathered outside the commander’s tent, the heroes explained the predicament that everyone was in, and why it was not possible for everyone to simply march for Gryphon’s Roost. Consternation and confusion went through the knights. As the hope and optimism died in the eyes of the knights, it became clear that only the thinnest veneer of civility and composure held the group together. They were about to crack and break down. Emma called upon the Sedna, goddess of waters, and a fine mist descended upon the group, soothing and calming their fears. It gave Emrys an opportunity to give another speech to reassure the knights.

It became clear that the troops would be incapable of assaulting the tower. It had been the source of all their dread for such a long time that the overwhelming majority was incapable of overcoming their fear to move against the place. It was also deemed cruel to ask the survivors to step forward as volunteer sacrifices, and so the plan was hatched to infiltrate the tower and see what state the portal was in and whether it could be used to teleport back to the material plane without performing the ritual and without incurring such a heavy price.

Besides, first one of the elementals powering the protective dome would need to be defeated in order to gain access to the tower, and Emma was only capable of enchanting so many people to be able to tread on water and engage in that fight. A group was formed, consisting of the adventurers, Ser Estienne, Gorden, Ser Fulton and Connal, a priest of Pholtus.

The group was significantly smaller than they had hoped they’d be able to take to assault the tower, and as such, special attention was paid to the gear distribution. Now that there was no coming back in case of death, Emma asked whether anyone would have a pristine diamond for her so that she may attempt to bring someone back to life. James rummaged around in his bag and retrieved a collection of precious stones he had liberated from Atilesceon’s study in the Crimson Tower, among which they found a suitable diamond.

The heroes and their companions departed for the tower, leaving instructions for the crusaders to start breaking camp and to await further orders. When they reached the shore, Emma performed the prayers to Sedna allowing the group to tread on water as if it was a solid surface. They approached one of the elementals and engaged it in combat. The elemental sank into the water and disappeared from sight, only to reappear right on top of Emrys who was captured inside and began his fight against drowning. Everyone attacked the water elemental, including Emrys from inside it, until the water dissipated and the golden bracers sank into the dark depths of Lake Llygad. Emrys coughed up enough water to fill a bucket, but luckily was okay and eager to continue.

The heroes and their companions made it to and up the causeway, confronted by the grizzly scene of broken bones and decomposing entrails of the crusaders previously nailed to the tower walls. Like previously, the door to the tower could easily be opened, and the scene inside was much like the ones the heroes had previously seen. The only real difference was that previously, they had seen a large portrait on the mantle above the hearth depicting Atilesceon, which now was nowhere to be found. James quickly investigated the cellar by going down the trapdoor, but found it much the way he had seen it before.

As the heroes started to get ready to go up to the second floor, Emrys noticed that they weren’t alone and began suspecting that someone or something was observing them while remaining hidden from sight. As they moved through the trapdoor leading up, they quickly shut the door behind them, locking whatever it was that was following them on the ground floor. They heard a thump as something tried to open the trapdoor, but with Astrid standing on it, whatever it was that tried to get in, was not strong enough to lift the tall Helmarker.

A whimpering voice could be heard on the other side of the trapdoor, begging for them to open up. When the heroes eventually did, it revealed a small fiendish creature, with the body of a kobold, the wings of a bat and the tail of a scorpion. He introduced himself as Sadwick, and claimed to be Atilesceon’s familiar. He and Atilesceon had a love-hate relationship, and Sadwick was eager to help the heroes mess with his master. He was sick and tired of being in Atilesceon’s service and wanted to be released so he could travel the Astral Sea.

After talking with Sadwick the heroes came to the conclusion that he was relatively harmless, but decided to keep an eye on him. Sadwick managed to reveal that the artificer was in the tower and that he had several “tiefling” followers with him. These tieflings were discovered when they moved to the next floor, Atilesceon’s bedroom, where they found several of them engaging in a strange, morbid orgy. The heroes decided to attack and cut several of them down before the rest fled to the next floor up. When the heroes pursued, they found themselves in Atilesceon’s laboratory, together with several tieflings, as well as Atilesceon himself, who had been looking out over Old Llygad from the balcony.

Atilesceon did not look like the man they had once seen on the portrait, but instead of a tall, grotesquely attractive man, dressed in lavish, opulent clothes. Everyone readied themselves for the confrontation.

Broken Curses and Cycles

Previously, the adventurers investigated the crusader camp, finding out more about the situation they found themselves in and possible solutions. They spoke to Gorden, one of the guards in Lord Destan’s retinue, to Lauriel Skycaller, the Senhadrim priestess, and to Ser Estienne, the legendary knight whose sanity had stayed somewhat in tact because of his mythical sword and its magical powers. The camp revealed some other interesting parties, like the apothecaries of Pholtus, or the dwarven scribes under the leadership of Ser Kadagar Ashbeard. The adventurers also rode into battle together with the cursed crusaders and managed to analyse it before being overwhelmed by the demon opposition and dying another horrible death. When they woke up again, they had a plan to preempt an attack on the demons in the hope of taking away their aerial domination.

Second Day, Third Wik, Æftera Līþa (Pasture Mōnaþ), 736th Year of the Crusade

James hatched a plan to coordinate the griffon riders in a preemptive attack against the demons flying around the tower. Luca and Quentin helped James organise an ambush by convincing the leader of the artillery crew, Ser Wentworth, to get prepared to support the griffon riders, and while Luca convinced a squad of infantry to take up a bow, Quentin convinced Ser Estienne to commit his infantry as archers as well. James ordered half of the griffon riders to hide high in the air, protected from sight by flying against the sun, while he took the other half of the griffon riders to lure the flying demons from around the tower, which worked out splendidly.

The demons eagerly followed James and the griffon riders, but the largest of the demons, Baraxxis the Balor, a huge brute wreathed in dark smoke and a fiery aura, with the head of a bull, the wings of an enormous bat, carrying a fiery whip and an electrified sword. The brute charged ahead and crossed the enormous distance between the demons and the griffon riders in the blink of an eye, suddenly appearing perilously close and hot on Tourbillon’s tail feathers.

The archers and artillery had been set up in the treeline using the cover of the trees as protection. When Baraxxis arrived he immediately summoned two scores of demons who came crawling out of demonic circles which appeared on the ground in front of the archers. They were small and spindly, like a bipedal cross between an insect and a kobold. Without hesitation they fell upon the archers, and Luca was also set upon.

The fight between the adventurers and Baraxxis was violent and long. Early, James was riding Tourbillon, but quickly dismounted the griffon to help Luca and Quentin fight the brute, while Tourbillon went to help the archers by attacking the demons they were fighting. Luca sent bolts of eldritch force into Baraxxis and Quentin kept making charging passes on his horse, while James darted in and out of the battle to strike the enormous demon in vital areas. For a while it looked as if the demons was going to be unbeatable, especially considering that every time one of the adventurers came near the demon, they were burned by its fiery aura and at risk of being entangled bit its whip, or cleaved by its electric sword.

It took everything the adventurers had, including several of the magical potions they had received from Barnaby in Bournemouth, to keep them going long enough. Several of the adventurers were on the brink of death, only to be rescued by the daring interventions of their companions.

The fight saw more than its fair share of miracles. Once, Luca was snatched up by Baraxxis and both of them disappeared, only to appear high up in the air, where the wicked Balor let Luca drop to his death down below. Luca still has no idea how he survived the fall; likely due to a combination of memory-suppressing terror and a possible concussion he received from smashing into the ground. The biggest miracle of all was that through sheer will and determination, the adventurers managed to bring Baraxxis to heel. With one final charge, Quentin rode into the blaze surrounding the nightmarish demon, pierced its body with the lance he had been gifted by Ser Estienne, and brought the demon down.

Unfortunately, the demon had one more trick up its sleeve. As it went down, its demonic life escaping back to the Abyss, it exploded in a roar of fire. Quentin and James were nearly killed if it wasn’t for the fact that Luca was far enough away from the demon to escape further injury and could administer more of Barnaby’s restorative potions. Quentin’s horse, sadly, did perish in the attack.

With Baraxxis out of the fight and the archers having had help from Tourbillon in defeating the wave of smaller demons, the remaining flying demons were no match against the griffon riders and their support. Once they were all defeated over half the griffon riders were ready to fight in the main battle later on. Some of them were wounded but would be capable of engaging. Only a few of the griffon riders didn’t survive the battle, as had a few of the archers.

Soon after the fight, after Emma had seen to the remaining wounds of the adventurers who had engaged in the fight with Baraxxis, the bells started to toll and the expedition moved out towards the battlefield. Emrys ordered the griffon riders to support the cavalry and for the artillery to do the same; after each of the cavalry’s charge, the artillery could fire at will and the air cavalry could swoop in afterwards. Two-thirds of the infantry was to focus on the incoming demonic ambushers, while one-third could move out onto the shore of the lake to support the cavalry.

Crucially, Luca decided to place a magic circle on the location of one of the five portals which were about to open in the woods. It’s powers of abjuration would prevent anyone inside the circle from moving out, effectively nullifying one of the portals. Lauriel Skycaller, priestess of Sehanine Moonbow, used her powers to inflict a magical slumber on the demons coming out of two of the remaining four portals, further stemming the tide. The apothecaries of Pholtus were among the infantry to immediately apply healing and provide support where necessary. Astrid had gotten a hold of Dame Josephine’s flaming sword because James was uncomfortable using it, and she was ready to charge into the oncoming wave, while Emma was ready to unleash her waves of water to keep the demons at bay.

When the battle started Quentin was riding side by side with Ser Estienne in the cavalry. The first charge was a success and as he wheeled the cavalry around, the artillery, air cavalry and infantry engaged, giving the cavalry plenty of time to turn around. The second charge was a success as well. Meanwhile, in the woods, the precautions that the adventurers had taken together with Lauriel Skycaller had almost halved the rush of incoming ambushers. Unfortunately, Lauriel was only half successful and she urged Emrys to come forth and enter one of the remaining portals before the demons came out. Hesitantly, he jumped into one of the open portals and collapsed it.

The strategy had been a great success. The continual charges by the cavalry brought the demons on the shore of the lake to heel. The infantry stemmed the tide of ambushers coming through the greatly diminished portals. Of course there were casualties, many casualties. Infantry, sergeants, squires and knights. Chief among the casualties was Lauriel Skycaller, who was attacked by the demons that managed to break through the enchantment she had placed on them. She was viciously torn apart.

The adventurers all survived, though not without their own cuts and bruises. But more importantly, hundreds of the crusaders survived. As the battle came to its end, many of them did not quite know what to do with themselves. Some of them cried. Some of the laughed. Some of them walked into the lake until the water took them. Many of them just sat there as the sun crept across the sky and started sinking in the west; a sight they had not seen in countless years.

The curse had been lifted. Everyone who was dead would remain so. The battle of the Crimson Tower had been won, and the crusaders would never again be nailed to its white walls.

Escaping the Madness

Previously, the adventurers found themselves inhabiting the bodies of several crusaders caught inside of Atilesceon’s recurring dimension in which the same hellish day in which the crusaders suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of a demonic horde. They found that all of the crusaders were compelled to act out the same battle over and over, and for most it had meant their minds were destroyed. The fabled knight Estienne was one of the few who had some semblance of sanity and he explained many things. When the battle started the adventurers found themselves unprepared for the chaos and fear that washed over them, and some fled, while others futilely participated in the battle. Whether they fought or fled, it made no matter as eventually the battle played out as it had so many times before and the crusaders were defeated and their corpses nailed to the walls of Atilesceon’s tower. After their defeat they once again woke up in the same position, at the start of the same day.

Second Day, Third Wik, Æftera Līþa (Pasture Mōnaþ), 736th Year of the Crusade

The adventurers quickly gathered at the commander’s tent and let Emma perform her ritual of calmness in order for everyone to put their terror of what happened to them to rest. The first thing was to keep Gorden, the house Sheridan guard who had accompanied Lord Destan and the only one of his retinue to stay behind in Old Llygad, from committing suicide. Quentin went to find him and after explaining what was going on saw the relief on Gorden’s face. He eagerly came along to talk to the adventurers.

Gorden managed to share a few important details that filled in the blanks and confirmed several suspicions. Quentin was indeed part of the expedition until being separated from the rest inside the Crimson Tower and he was genuinely relieved to hear Quentin had survived. He also explained that under Lord Destan’s command they had penetrated the tower in Old Llygad in search for the Ritual of Returning. They had found the tower richly adorned, filled with wealth and opulence, with many curious servants.

Lord Destan and his group had performed the ritual on a spot in the woods to the south east of the lake, which the adventurers recognised as Isobel’s Vale. They had gotten Patrick, squire to Ser Gregorian, to be their volunteer in the ritual. Luca remarked that it was inconsistent with what they learned from the Bristlecone villagers, who had found Jenna, Robart, and who the adventurers now knew to be Ser Edric, to the north of the path leading to Hunter’s Hollar.

The ritual went awry, and Gorden could tell something was wrong. At the same time the demons were closing in on the vale. Attempting to complete the ritual, Lord Destan commanded Mark and Gorden to protect him, but Mark lost his nerve and charged through the opening portal. Jenna and Robart were transformed back to their own bodies as they headed through the portal, but that is where Gorden died.

Afterwards, when Gorden awoke once again, he found that Mark, Jenna and Robart were no longer in camp, and that Lord Destan, presumably still in the body of Ser Edric, was unconscious. He spoke with Ser Estienne and decided that if the ones who escaped survived and managed to call for help, he would have to survive enough iterations with his mind in tact. He decided the best way was to commit suicide before each battle for as long as his willpower would allow and before the compulsion had him in its grasp. Quentin was deeply shocked that Ser Estienne would suggest such morbidity and he started to mistrust the nature of the fabled Knight of Flowers.

When the adventurers explained that they were sent by house Sheridan and that Mark, Jenna and Robert made it back, Gorden was incredibly relieved and immediately willing to help the group with whatever they needed. Quentin decided to wilfully lie to Gorden and tell him that his companions made it back safely.

In an attempt to rouse the unconscious form of Ser Edric, James attempted to perform some of the magical powers that Dame Josephine was rumoured to posses. Strangely, he had the innate ability to perform these spells, even though he himself had never studied on how to perform them. He spread the fingers of one hand and concentrated for a moment before a jet of flame burst from his hand, severely burning Ser Edric, his clothes, his bed linen, and several items around him. But it did not wake him.

Inspired by James’ attempt to access Dame Josephine’s gifts, Emrys called upon the Platinum Father to heal Ser Edric’s wounds and found himself a perfect conduit for His divine energy. A halo formed around his head and his hands glowed with radiant energy which flowed into the blistered form of Ser Edric, stitching together the badly burnt skin and smoothing it over, leaving him perfectly healthy, albeit in tattered, burnt clothes. James then took Edric’s hand and found an identical burn mark on Edric’s palm as he had on his and the same as the Edric he had seen in Isobel’s care. James carefully gave Edric some water to drink to see whether he would have an involuntary response, which he did; Edric slowly drank little bits of water. James then began talking to Edric while holding his hand, lying to him about the state of his family. He was trying to provoke an emotional response from the unconscious man, which he received when a light frown came across the young knight’s face.

The conversation between the adventurers quickly turned to what to do next. From the time of their wake up, until the time the bells tolled and the march to the tower began, they only had five hours, and there was a lot for them left to discover. Ideas were raised, from storming the tower, to letting devour all of the crusaders, to finding a way to reach out to the demons and forming an alliance for freedom. The consensus became that the best way was to break the curse and help the crusaders defeat the demonic horde. For that, the adventurers needed more information and see whether they could change some of the details of the battle. In particular, they were interested to know where the ambushers came upon the infantry and where it was they were coming from, the thought being that they were already in Old Llygad, and could possibly be preempted or obstructed before hand.

Emrys and Quentin made their way to Lauriel’s tent to talk to her about some of the confusing things she said the previous day. Along the way, Quentin shared his concerns about Ser Estienne. He felt that the knight was behaving strangely and Quentin was starting to mistrust him. He hoped that Emrys would keep an eye out for any signs that Ser Estienne was not the ally they thought he was.

They found Lauriel in reverie to the Moonmaiden inside her tent. Many things became clear to Emrys during his conversation. He learned about the mysterious Sehanine priestess Mohiam, who had been granted a vision by the Moonmaiden about an unfathomably complex mixing of different human and elven bloodlines to produce a prophet who would be able to permanently restore the Seal of Divine Animus. Mohiam was the leader of a cult who were all working towards the goal of mixing the right bloodlines in order to find this prophet. From what Lauriel explained, some of the things each of the members was required to do seemed almost random; introducing people, deposing leaders, uplifting nobility, ordering assassinations, starting wars…

She herself had been tasked to start a new tribe of elves called the Aen Adhar, the children of the moon, of which Emrys was a product. She was only known to them as “Moonwhisper”, a name Emrys had heard all throughout his childhood. They were taught just enough about the prophecy to do what Mohiam needed them to do. Over centuries the Aen Adhar turned into a magireligious cult that Emrys so despised.

Quentin learned that Lauriel had been given a second task; to improve elven-human relations by marrying Prior Benedict McAllister. She would then use her influence to prevent Dame Josephine LaValette from strengthening her house and allowing it to unify the tribes of Celticia, now modern day Beauclair, and found the first kingdom on the continent. Instead, the house was deprived of their legendary daughter, which left it influential, but not dominant. With the help of Mohiam’s followers, house LaValette would be manipulated to one day become the royal house of another kingdom; now known as house Valois, the ruling house of Lyria.

Upon his return to the commander’s tent, Emrys took a moment to tap into the divine connection that prior Benedict held with Paladine and extended his senses to feel out the corruption in the hearts of those inside the tent. Intent on only getting a measure of Ser Estienne, Emrys found that the only really dreadful thing in the tent was Blackstar.

In the meantime, Luca had gone to speak to the priests of Pholtus, who he felt would be better served among the infantry on the battlefield, rather than be held back at camp to tend to the dying and wounded coming back from the battle. What would come back for them from the battlefield was death, and if Luca could convince them to join the infantry, they might make a difference. Luca found the priests in a large tent preparing ointments, poultices and potions. He spoke to one of the priests who would acknowledge him and wasn’t simply playing their part in the story of their horrible defeat. Luca managed to convince the priest to commit his order to march with the infantry. The priest raised his hands to the pale sun in the heavens in supplication and began instructing the others on their new mission.

Afterwards, James and Luca decided to search the camp for anything out of the ordinary. James was going to pay special attention to any correspondence he could find, as well as any items that might be magical. Luca was mostly interested to find more interesting people, and hopefully some that, like Ser Estienne, had retained some of their original vibrancy and could hopefully shake off the effects of the curse.

Near the edge of the camp, close to the treeline, Luca stumbled upon a camp that was made up of mostly dwarves. They had set up their tents around a large rock that was jutting out of the ground, and they were all chiselling away at it under the direction of one dwarf who was dictating to them in the dwarven tongue. Near them stood a squire with the same dead eyes that the others around camp had shown. She was helping the dwarves by handing them hammers and chisels when they needed them. Luca saw that the young knight wore the herald of a noble house that looked familiar to him; the head of a red stallion. Unfortunately, he couldn’t put his finger on where he had seen it before, nor whose house it belonged to.

Luca quickly came to learn that the dwarves had taken to recording as much information as they could in a very complicated form of dwarven shorthand. His attempts to read it were for naught; he would need more time to study the runic script the dwarves were using in order to make nor tails out of it. He found out that the dwarves were under the leadership of Ser Kadagar Ashbeard, and that the woman was his squire.

James had found many different letters, both personal as well as strategic, which gave him the impression that the crusaders had set out their expedition with the full conviction that they would undoubtedly succeed in their mission. He also learned that there were many other conflicts that the crusaders were involved in, and that the fighting had spread to every corner of the continent. During his search, he also came across a very unusual looking robe and a beautiful brooch in the shape of a scarab, which lit up with curious symbols when he held it.

As James was planning on returning to Luca with the robe and the brooch, he heard the bells toll and the camp got ready to move out once again. The adventurers had decided that most of them would go on to support the infantry, including the priests of Pholtus, as well as Lauriel. Luca gave Ser Florian’s battle lance to Quentin, who would use it by joining the cavalry. And lastly, James would take to the air on the back of Tourbillon, taking Hejduk along with him in order to survey the battlefield from up on high.

The battle started and the cavalry set in the charge against the demons on the shore, while high overhead the air cavalry were engaging the flying demons. Due to a lack of Dame Josephine’s involvement in the aerial battle, the demons slowly took the upper hand. But it afforded James a good view of the surroundings. While Quentin was thundering his horde alongside the cavalry and the rest were laying in wait with the rest of the ambushers, James could see that the tower was quiet and that there was no other activity right before the rifts started to appear in the tree line. This meant that the demon ambushers were not laying in wait somewhere and they could not preempt the ambush itself.

Three portals opened up in the woods through which hundreds of demons came pouring forth. Emrys, in the guise of Prior Benedict, kept the moral of the infantry in check and commanded them to aid the cavalry and follow the original plan. He then used the divine might of the Platinum Father to disrupt several demon’s advance, and then used the strange magical pipes to send several of the smaller demons scurrying. Luca used the power of the Lyrium crystal he carried with him to keep some of the demons at bay, while casting bolt after bolt of eldritch energy into the incoming onslaught of demons. Astrid could be seen darting through the forest with incredible speed, attacking the demons with a frenzy and a fury that was unmatched by anyone but the most wicked monsters on the battlefield. Emma called upon the power of Sedna to conjure up a powerful tidal wave, which held the demons at bay for a time. Lauriel, strengthened by the adventurer’s steadfastness, created a shimmering symbol made from the purest moonlight, which exploded in devastating energy when the demons were almost upon them, felling many of them.

In the meantime, the infantry, supported by the priests of Pholtus, had engaged the demons on the shore and managed to allow the cavalry to make their pass with minimal casualties. The cavalry managed to wheel about unhindered and set in a second charge, clashing into the ravenous demons once more. Quentin’s lance scored several piercing hits.

That’s when the adventurers holding off the ambushers were overwhelmed. The infantry was quickly caught between the hammer and anvil of the demons but fought valiantly to allow the cavalry to continue their charge and make an attempt to wheel about once more. During their third charge, the cavalry was overwhelmed.

From up on high, James saw all of this unfold and saw that the demons were making their way towards the artillery in order to support the flying demons. He set Tourbillon into a dive to keep the flying demons off his back and see if the elementals that were fuelling the protective dome around the tower would react to his presence. As he soared past, with the demons in tow, the elementals tried to take a swipe at him. He managed to get away unscathed but noticed that some of the demons trailing him weren’t so lucky. He decided to keep doing this to see how many demons he could get taken out like that, but eventually ran out of luck and one of the elemental heavy limbs crashed down like a tidal wave and he and Hejduk died, too.

Second Day, Third Wik, Æftera Līþa (Pasture Mōnaþ), 736th Year of the Crusade

The adventurers once again wake up feeling completely shaken to their core. They notice that with every death a piece of their resilience is lost and they can feel their willpower waning and the curse of the compulsion taking hold. Everyone gathers at the commander’s tent and Emma performed her ritual of stillness to calm everyone’s emotions and steadied everyone for the day ahead.

The conversation quickly turned to the successes of the previous day. Even though the battle was lost, they had learned several valuable lessons and quickly started to come up with new ideas on how the battle could be won.

While Luca performed the ritual of identification, using one of Isobel’s pearl earrings, on the jewellery the adventurers had retrieved from the Crimson Tower, James went to retrieve the unusual robes and the curious brooch for Luca to divine the properties of. Luca found that the jewellery was imbued with several magical properties which would greatly benefit the wearer, but there was a dark side to the set, which would leave the wearer weak willed and compliant. When Lauriel’s saw the set she screamed and nearly lost her sanity. She explained that it was a gift from Atilesceon to her, which she refused. Luca quickly surmised that the purpose of the jewellery was to protect Lauriel, keep her healthy and beautiful, but also make her subservient to Atilesceon.

A plan was formed for a preemptive strike. James ordered Ser Wentworth, who had been in charge of the artillery, to move the artillery just outside of camp and start preparing for a preemptive attack. He then moved on to the griffon riders and spectacularly convinced them to join in the attack. Quentin rallied a squad of archers and got Ser Estienne to commit his armsmen as archers as well.

It was not easy to pick up, but there seemed to be the slightest sliver of hope in the air.

Dreams of Dying

Previously, the adventurers, had entered the tower and started exploring the many floors after having found a young Beauclairois knight who was locked in the cellar. Quentin, as he called himself, had entered the tower together with Lord Destan, only to be separated from him and the rest of his expedition as he explored the lower level while they continued to venture to the higher floors. Together, they explored the library where they found much information in the different pages of Atilesceon’s private journal. They learned about his time at the Senhadrim, his personal rivalries, his interests, his research and ultimately about his downfall and the his attempts to serve his master, Mammon, the archduke of Minauros, the third level of Ba’ator. Ultimately, they discovered his bedroom, his workshop, and a portal guarded by a stone statue which attacked them. After defeating the statue, they decided to enter the portal.

Second Day, Third Wik, Æftera Līþa (Pasture Mōnaþ), 736th Year of the Crusade

Each of the adventurers were assailed by the same terrible dream in which they were followed by a dark horse with flaming hooves. Luca was chased through an abandoned monastery, while Quentin was running through a hedgerow maze. Emrys was chased through an elven ruin, littered with human bodies, while James was trying to escape through the sewers. The damp and earthy smell reminded each of them of something which initially set them upon their individual quests which lead them to the Crimson Tower.

With each flash of the nightmare that was riding them down, they saw the future; of places foreign and familiar, in which a new age of fear had sparked violence and drove people to atrocities. Eventually the horrible images revealed that some people became corrupted by the chaos of demonic hordes, while others became corrupted by the cruelty of the infernal legions. Two armies were set to clash, one were beastly and ravenous in their appetite for destruction, while the other were disciplined and methodical in their wickedness. In between stood a small band of soldiers, dressed in steel armour coloured red white and blue, lead by golden warriors with wings of light. This band would be pulverised between the hammer of demons and the anvil of devils.

Then the nightmare was upon the adventurers and thundered its flaming hooves down on them, mortally wounding them. They were each shown what their spilled blood would cause; Luca saw fungus growing rapidly and spreading noxious spores. Quentin saw the hedges around him wither and die, the blight spreading outward with his death at its epicentre. Emrys watch his blood seep into the veins of the marble of the ruins, pulsing angrily until the dead bodies around him opened red, glowing eyes. James saw his blood mix with the sewage and spill down a drain, from which a strange eye stalk rose up to observe him as he drew his last, ragged breath.

Emrys woke up at an elegant writing desk in a large tent. He was holding a quill and the letter in front of him was one addressed to his beloved Lauriel and spoke of being wed after the military expedition was over. The letter then turned into a series of scratching, profanity before ending with a plea to Paladine to let death take him. Emrys did not remember writing the letter nor did he understand the contents. He suddenly noticed his arms were not his own, and when he found a mirror confirmed that the face looking back at him as he peered in it was not his own, but that of a black haired, bearded human man. The tent held a tactical table with a map of what he later concluded was Pinefall, in particular of the north-western corner of Lake Llygad and its strand. There were two beds in the tent, one of which was holding the unconscious body of a man he recognised as the tracker from Isobel’s hut. He could not be awoken. There were armour stands, weapon racks and a shrine dedicated to Paladine. He eventually learned that he was inhabiting the body of Prior Benedict McAllister, knight-captain in the Order of the Gryphon and devout paladin to the Platinum Father and leader of the military expedition to Gwenllygad.

Luca awoke in a modest tent, with a bed, a chest filled with personal belongings, an armour stand holding a beautiful set of platinum gilded armour, like that of the Order of the Lance as wel as a set of weapons, including a shield bearing the lightning struck oak tree of house Ironwood, whom he last saw in the hands of Ser Florianus when the adventurers met him on their way to Pinefall, watched him ramble and wither away to die before burying his remains and using the shield as a grave marker. When Luca looked down at his own hands, he saw a shock of golden curls tumble past his face; he was inhabiting the body of Ser Florianus. Luca was comforted by the fact that Blackstar was still by his side.

For James the wake up was both more pleasant and more strange. He found himself setting at a dressing table in front of a mirror, in the body of a comely, strong woman with long auburn hair and a long neck. Behind him a short haired woman was brushing his hair, using a ivory-handled brush, decorated with mother of pearl, set with soft, white bristles. The tent he was in was enormous and opulent, set with furniture, carpets and decorations. There were three beds and three armour stands, each holding a splendid plate armour gilded with lapis lazuli. One of the beds was large and richly made up, and the armour next to it was adorned with sapphires and aquamarines. The woman behind him had dark rings around her eyes and looked she performed her tasks with a haunted reluctance. A handsome man came into the tent and announced in archaic Beauclairois, which James was surprised to learn he understood, that Tourbillon was saddled and groomed, before starting to don his own armour. James didn’t know who Tourbillon was, but noticed that the man had the same dark rings and tired look about his eyes. By talking to two squires — or écuyer — he found that he was inhabiting the body of Dame Josephine LaValette, a knight in the Order of the Gryphon.

Finally, Quentin woke up in a modest tent listening to the sounds of a melancholic tune being played on a harp outside. He found his bearing and looked outside of the tent to find a military camp filled with soldiers. His tent was standing next to a larger tent, outside of which stood a handsome man, casually playing the harp. He was remarkable, not only for the harp, but also for the way in which he was observing the rest of the people in camp. There was a great sadness in his eyes. At his side was an unusual wooden scabbard, adorned with what looked like living vines, which occasionally sprouted small buds which quickly grew and blossomed into flowers, before withering away. It became apparent to Quentin that the man with the harp was the legendary Ser Estienne d’Epines and the sword at his side was Fleur, the Sword of Flowers. He also quickly realised that he was inside the body of Durand de Palemerin, Ser Estienne’s squire. Looking around the camp, he spotted an enormous tent who was flying the herald of the LaValette family, an ancient house from the time before Beauclair formed as a kingdom. He decided to head there, hoping to find some answers.

The camp was filled with dozens of knights, hundreds of armsmen. There were artillery engines, horses, griffons, tradesmen, teamsters, cooks, and the supplies necessary to support an expedition of more than six hundred people. It was tricky at first, but it didn’t take long before everyone had found each other and was gathering at the tent that Emrys had awoken in. It had a tactical map of the area and it held the unconscious body of the tracker in Isobel’s care, whom they learned was Ser Edrick the Strong.

Astrid was found to inhabit the body of the seven foot tall monstrosity by the name of Ser Gregorian Longshadow. The adventurers had met him in the presence of the Ser Edrick on the shores of Lake Llygad the previous evening, during the clash of the cavalcades. Ser Gregorian was followed around by his squire Patrick, who kept trying to convince Astrid to keep her armour donned, something she absolutely refused.

Emma found herself inhabiting the body of Dame Victoria Greywater, from the eastern black bogs, not a reference anyone had heard of. She had been afflicted by a voice inside her head who was only screaming incoherently. It had given Emma a headache, which she tried to treat with a ritual at the nearby river where she was found by Luca.

At the river, they were witness to a handful of people who had walked into the deep end of the river to be taken by the current. Another suicide happened in front of the commander’s tent, where a dead-eyed man opened his own throat with a knife and bled out while people nearby seemed not to notice. It became very clear that most people in the camp were acting like very strangely. Some were going through what looked to be well-practised motions, while others were acting out of sorts, committing suicide, weeping, screaming, or just sitting still in catatonia.

While talking to one another in the comfort of the commander’s tent the adventurers started to piece together what was happening to them. They quickly realised that they were about to replay the events of the battle at Gwenllygad where the crusaders would be betrayed by the Senhadrim mage Atilesceon. With the help of Blackstar, Luca confirmed that all of their bodies housed a soul, and a faint, secondary soul, which likely belonged to the original crusader. Both Emma and Quentin had been able to hear a voice inside their head and identify it as their host’s soul, but Quentin had not been able to commune with them, and for Emma it proved impossible due to the state of insanity that the soul was in. Quentin shared his suspicion that Ser Estienne was unlike many of the other crusaders in camp, and he was quickly summoned.

Ser Estienne was indeed unlike the other crusaders. He explained that this day had been played out countless of times and that everyone was compelled to play their part, always with the same outcome. As time wore on, everyone’s ability to resist the compulsion to play their part was worn away until most people were nothing but mindless automatons. He explained that he believed that the magic of his sword was what had protected him and allowed him to retain some of his sanity, but that the sword had lost much of its power over time. Eventually, when the magic in the sword had depleted, he too would succumb.

The crusaders, Ser Estienne explained, were cursed to remain in Old Llygad for all eternity replaying the events over and over again. Many people had entered over the ages, some of them managed to escape, leaving the crusaders behind, and some of them had failed to escape and eventually merged completely with the crusader whose body that were inside of. Ser Estienne believed that the curse could only be broken by winning the battle for Old Llygad.

The knight also shared more details about the battle, about the betrayal, and about what was going to happen later that day. This was the original plan; air cavalry would engage the flying demons attacking Atilesceon’s tower, supported by artillery, preventing them from harassing the ground troops. At the same time, the cavalry would charge the demons on the shores of the lake in formation. After the first charge, as the cavalry was wheeling around and preparing for their second charge, the infantry would emerge from their ambush inside the treeline and engage the demons on the shore, allowing for the cavalry to get ready for another pass.

But this is not how the battle played out. Instead of the infantry completing their ambush, they themselves were ambushed by demons emerging from portals that opened up with frightening precision behind them in the woods. The infantry were attacked in the back, routed, and the cavalry went unsupported and therefore found themselves out of position and quickly overwhelmed as they tried to wheel around. Once the demons collapsed the rear guard and overwhelmed the artillery, the air cavalry was doomed, and eventually the entire camp of civilians with them.

On occasion, Atilesceon would change a few things about the battle, especially early on. He would give them exotic weapons, strange mounts, others siege engines, different numbers, different opponents, but the result was always the same; he would look on from his tower and observe how the crusaders were defeated and defiled as their bodies were nailed to the tower walls by the victorious demons.

Lauriel Skycaller, the Senhadrim priestess of Sehanine Moonbow, who was to be wed to Prior Benedict upon completion of the expedition, and who was the one that Atilesceon was obsessed with before his fall, was also called to the commander’s tent for conversation, but her mind seemed too fractured, she was too disturbed, to yield any immediately useful information.

When the bells started to toll, everyone in camp started to get ready for their departure south, along the river, in order to engage the demons on the shores of Lake Llygad. Most of the crusaders remained dead-eyed as they started to move out. James decided not to fly out on Tourbillon, her tempestuous griffon, but instead ride out on horse back together with the rest. The plan was to ride for the tower and try to gain entry.

When the lake finally came into view, it was apparent that demons were already skirmishing on the shore in front of the tower. From afar the aberrant monstrosities looked like a crawling chaos. They came in all shapes and sizes, each defying description in their hideousness. High up in the sky, winged demons were circling the tower, probing its defences. Surrounding the tower was a shimmering dome made of what seemed like a thin sheet of water. At the base of the dome, on four sides of the tower, strange water creatures could be seen fuelling the dome. The creatures were large and closely matched the descriptions given by the Bristlecone villagers of Lady Llyn, the protector of lake Llygad.

Each of the adventurers were deeply shaken by the sight of the demonic horde. The crusaders marched on, the infantry breaking away early to enter the woods and flank from the west while the cavalry rode out in formation and the griffons riders flying in overhead, supported by the scorpion ballistae shooting bolts the size of small trees at the winged demons above the tower.

Both James and Astrid failed to steel themselves against the horror that was about to play out and decided that getting drunk back at camp would be preferable than to stay to watch the crusaders’ inevitable defeat. The realisation that they were trapped in a reality which was playing out over and over was too much for their minds to comprehend and so they turned their horses and fled back to camp. Quentin, disgusted at the sight of such cowardice went in pursuit, while the others merely stood, awestruck at the unfolding carnage.

At camp, Quentin was incapable of convincing James to stand his ground as he relied on Dame Josephine’s abilities to mount Tourbillon and take to the skies. On the back of the alabaster griffin he flew as far north as the bird would take him but soon found himself enveloped in mist, turned around and heading back south. After several attempts he landed the griffon in a nearby clearing and drank himself into a stupor until the horde of demons finally caught up with him as they had with each of his companions. He died drunk and screaming.

Second Day, Third Wik, Æftera Līþa (Pasture Mōnaþ), 736th Year of the Crusade

After each of the adventurers suffered a violent death at the hands of the demonic horde, side by side with the rest of the crusaders, they once again awoke in the same place, in the same position, in the same bodies, at the exact same time on the exact same day as before. The felt nauseous and incredibly shaken by what they had experienced, but luckily they found each other much more easily and Emma managed to perform a divine ritual that calmed everyone’s nerves and they once again felt back in control. They did, however, realise that with every death they would suffer, their resolve to simply comply with the compulsion the rest of the crusaders were under would erode.

They made plans to see if they could talk to the Senhadrim priestess, to find Gorden, the remaining house Sheridan guard that is in camp somewhere, and to search the camp for any writings that would give them a better idea of the situation in camp before the assault. All in the hopes to find a way to defeat Atilesceon, to break the curse that holds the crusaders in its grasp, and to find their way back to Pinefall.

Exploring the Crimson Tower

Previously, the adventurers had been confronted by the strange clash of the two cavalcades; the forces of the Silver Crusade and the demonic hordes which assaulted them at the Crimson Tower. Suffering through a turbulent night on the shores of Lake Llygad, they were greeted with the horrifying appearance of the tower during the first light of the morning. Before the tower disappeared once again, the adventurers ran down the causeway and moved into the tower and started exploring the ground floor.

Third Day, Second Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

After having spent some time on the ground floor, looking at the various suits of armour and tapestries lining the walls, the painting above and the furniture in front of the hearth, the elaborate dining table and the huge candle-filled chandelier hanging above it, the adventurers started working on solving the crystal puzzle they had found kept a lock on the trapdoor leading to the cellar. They had found a blue and a red rod, and they were confident they could break the wizard’s playful attempt at securing the way through.

It proved harder than they had initially thought, but eventually did manage to solve the puzzle and the trapdoor could be opened. The space beyond was completely dark, save for the light coming from the chandelier. James was the first one to go into the cellar and was surprised to hear the voice of a man calling out at him.

The man turned out to be Ser Quentin Morvrayne, the son of a nobleman from Beauclair who had been locked into the cellar for a long time. He had arrived at the tower together with Lord Destan’s expedition, but had gotten separated from the others when they were exploring the tower and the trapdoor had shut behind him, locking him in. He had subsisted on some of the food and drink he had on him, and on what he could find in the pitch black, which hadn’t been much.

The cellar itself was spacious but not as lavishly decorated as the ground floor. It held a torture table, with various wicked looking implements, as well as manacles with which people could be shackled to the wall. It also held some crates, casks and barrels of provisions, which were the cause of Quentin’s survival. Without them, he most certainly would have perished.

The adventurers, ever cautious, asked Quentin to disarm himself and hand over his sword, which readily agreed to. He was weak, and allowed Emma to escort him up to the ground floor living room so that they could talk more about Lord Destan. In the meantime, James took some time to examine the cellar, where he found the green, crystalline rod.

Upstairs, Quentin had told the story of meeting Lord Destan while he was on a personal quest. He wasn’t too keen on sharing too many details about his quest, but some did notice he was fidgeting with a rather effeminate handkerchief which was tied around his left wrist and concluded that this must have had something to do with it. Through some tactical questioning on the part of the adventurers, they found that Quentin had met Lord Destan while he was in the company of his three house guards, as well as Robart, the villager. Quentin also seemed really eager to hear about what had happened to Lord Destan and his retinue and was saddened to hear that some of them had died while others had returned with their mental health no longer in tact. He proclaimed not to know about the tracker residing in Isobel’s care.

During this long discussion, some of the others started to take a look at the trapdoor in the ceiling at the top of the wooden steps that were set into the wall. They found that this trapdoor was locked by one of Atilesceon’s crystal puzzles and it proved significantly harder to solve. They did, however, manage to find out the mechanics of the crystal puzzles and how the crystals interacted with the crystalline rods. One of the mechanics seemed to be that both the blue and the green rod, when changing the colour of one of the crystals, also seemed to affect the crystals directly adjacent to that crystal. The red rod seemed to be the exception, which did not affect adjacent crystals. Some rods turned certain crystals into their own colour, some rods turned certain clear, and some rods turned certain crystals into a colour not their own.

Once the trapdoor to the second floor was unlocked the adventurers moved onward. They found that the second floor was Atilesceon’s personal library and study with bookshelves lining every wall, filled with books of all shapes and sizes. Most of them seemed old but well cared for, mostly written in an archaic form of Lyrian that was hard to follow. Three elaborate reading tables were set up among the bookshelves, each seemingly being dedicated to a particular topic of study; the planes, military history and engineering.

There was one hearth, with again a trapdoor on each side, one in the floor, from where the adventurers came from, and one in the ceiling at the top of wooden steps set into the wall. The one going up was not locked by a crystal puzzle.

Notes could be found everywhere, some of them scattered, some of them laid out neatly on the reading desks. They seemed to be Atilesceon’s words on a wide array of subjects. Most of the journal pages were read aloud by one of the adventurers as they read through all of them, picking out the ones that interested them. Some saw names that they recognised, others touched on subjects of personal interest. Only one was not for public consumption, as James surreptitiously palmed an entry on the mysterious Upright Man.

Emrys found himself interested in the entry on Mohiam, her plots and how those plots were affecting Atilesceon, who was romantically interested in one of her disciples. Emma pointed Emrys to a journal entry which spoke about the Arms of the Senhadrim, and mentioned Toruviel by name. Emrys decided to take a moment for himself to commune with the sword, hoping to get a more direct communiqué from Toruviel, but unfortunately the bond between sword and wielder was not strong enough for that yet, and all that Emrys gleaned was repulsion and rejections; for Atilesceon, his work and ultimately for his betrayal.

Quentin, while leafing through the different journal entries came across one which touched him deeply; about how Atilesceon was in love with Lauriel Skycaller, but how that love went unreciprocated. It also mentioned a dark pact that Atilesceon had struck with someone called Mammon in return for possessing Lauriel. And then there was the mention of a “prior”, but it was unclear how they factored into things.

Luca, overwhelmed with all the information, read an entry on Tharizdun, but decided not to share it with the rest. He did however, read another entry aloud that dealt with something called the Seal of Divine Animus, which Tharizdun put in place to shield the planes of the Ethereal Mist from the Astral Sea and the Elemental Chaos. Emma, in turn, read about the ebb and flow of magic and how the Seal of Divine Animus also prevented the Ethereal Mist from their access to the weave of magic.

When Luca took a moment to commune with Blackstar in the same way that Emrys had done with Toruviel, he found that the entity inside the staff was as hateful towards Atilesceon as Toruviel was.

It became clear that some of the journal entries were quite recent when Emma read out an entry that dealt with the Daerlan Empire and its current emperor. Taking another look at the journal entries, it appeared that there were some that were remarkably older than others. Some were of this age, and others were of the age of the Silver Crusade.

Hejduk found an entry on the szygani to read, and it slowly became clear that Atilesceon was very concerned with what he called the Tablets of the Elemental Eye. They seemed scattered among several figures, and that collecting enough of them could lead to someone who referred to as the “Illusive One.” Pazuzu, a demon, had five tablets, while the devil Mammon had three. Various others had one or two in their possession, including some people that the adventurers had met before or heard of.

At that point, James started to go through many of the books in the library, finding that most of them were written in archaic Lyrian, which would take time to decipher. He decided to find the two most expensive looking books and store them away in his magical bag.

When Luca found a journal entry on something called the “Ritual of Returning”, which was a ritual designed by Atilesceon in order to escape a place he called “Old Llygad”, he decided to note this down in his tome. He also noted that the cost of performing such a ritual was very high; the sacrifice of a willing soul.

Afterwards, Luca performed a ritual that attuned him to any magical aura and investigated the study, only to find that nothing stood out to him as magical in nature. That’s when the group of adventurers moved to the next floor, finding there a lavish bedroom, with a large four-poster bed covered in the plushest feather pillows and mattresses, made up with sheets of the finest silks.

There were also windows, letting in an eerie pale white light. Two doors lead to a wide balcony that looked out over the front of the tower and part of the causeway. The walls were clear and made of pale stone, not at all crimson-stained and lined with suffering victims.

The surroundings were shrouded in a pale, milky mist, diffusing the light all around. There was no sun, nor moon, nor other light source available, and yet the mist was evenly white in all directions. Very gentle waves could be heard in the distance, like that of a small lake. A titanic, shadowy creature moved like a shade through the mist at a great distance. It was unclear what the creature was. Nothing could be made out other than that it was much taller than the tower. The creature didn’t seem to notice or care about the adventurers.

After some fumbling with a mirror tied with a rope to a sword, trying to create enough of an angle to see beyond the overhanging jetty above them in the hopes of seeing further up the tower, the mirror slipped and smashed to pieces on the causeway below.

After running out of things to do on the balcony, James decided to go back inside the bedroom and do a thorough search of the floor. The only thing of interest he found was a jewellery box with a set of earrings, a necklace and two rings in them. He asked Emrys whether he could see if they were magic or not, but Emrys responded by saying that this was not part of his arcane repertoire. Once Luca was done transcribing the Ritual of Returning, he confirmed James’ suspicion that the jewellery was all magical. And so the jewellery box disappeared in James’ magical bag.

When the group moved up to the next floor, they found it filled with artificing tools, including hammers, chisels and pliers. There is a small anvil and a forge, which lay dormant. There were two baths, filled with oil and water, and a small smelter, surrounded by ingots of different metals; iron, tin, copper, silver and gold. There were shelves filled with curious glass bottles and ceramic jars, containing strange liquids, powders and pastes. And lastly, there were precious and semi-precious stones and crystals, though no Lyrium.

Emrys, spotting the precious stones, went to look for a piece of obsidian, which he would need to fuel one of his spells. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to find any. James, however, quickly separated some of the more precious stones from the semi-precious stones and pocketed a small cache of them. Luca convinced everyone to help out in filing down enough iron and silver to supplement the iron filings he had gotten back in Allenham. He explained that it would greatly benefit the group in the battles to come, since it would be able to protect against the fiends that they were reading about. Everyone went to work, using the tools to file down the ingots until Luca had enough to fuel his spell.

In the meantime, James went downstairs to the bedroom and stripped the bed of the silk sheets, fashioning them into a makeshift bag. He took it down to the library and started to fill it up with books, taking about fifteen books in total before the bag became too heavy to drag around.

When the next crystal puzzle was solved and the next trapdoor up was opened, it revealed a wide, open space with a large statue directly in the centre. Made of stone, it was humanoid in shape but about the size of an ogre, with large crude arms and legs, and a blunt, shapeless head. Behind the statue, against the wall, stood a large marble archway, covered in a translucent, blue film, behind which lay the black void of a rift, much like the ones the adventurers had seen in the catacombs beneath Lynnecombe. At the base of the archway they saw the same molten slag and jutting crystals they had previously encountered, which seemed to go hand in hand with the formation of these rifts.

When James cautiously stepped into the room to investigate, the statue came to life and started to move. “Intruders…” it said in a low, rumbling voice, and pursued James, who quickly darted back downstairs. The statue didn’t pursue James any further, but a clear crystal embedded in its torso started to charge up in a vibrant blue light until with a thunderclap a bolt of lightning arced out from that crystal to painfully hit James.

Quentin demanded the return of his sword, which the group obliged him in, with Astrid kindly reminding him that if he raised his sword against any one of them she would pound him into dust. Quentin assured her and went down to the living room to retrieve a shield from one of the decorative suits of armour. He found a suitable kite shield made of wood, rimmed with a steel band.

In a concerted effort the group engaged what was surely the crimson guardian that Atilesceon had spoken of in his journal, they managed to use the rods to keep the guardian from using the powers of the crystals against the adventurers by touching the crystal with the appropriate rod during the time the power was charging up. Eventually the guardian was defeated, though not without some of the adventurers getting bludgeoned themselves. The life extinguished from the guardian in a super nova of flame that it sent out all around it in a desperate attempt to defeat the intruders.

The adventurers discovered one last crystal puzzle, embedded on the marble archway, which they solved and the protective bubble dissipated and the rift lay naked in front of them. The sound of the ever receding waves that they remembered well from the first rift became louder and more compelling. A conversation was started on whether to go through.

Emrys felt deeply uncomfortable at the sight of the portal. The unease he felt in the pit of his stomach was familiar to him. It reminded him of the moment right after his mentor Voriel disappeared. He was dreading the decision he had to make.

Confidently, Luca decided to step through with Hejduk obediently following him. They were sucked into the pit of the void until they could no longer be seen by the remaining adventurers. Next up were Astrid and Emma, and Quentin quickly followed. Only Emrys and James remained behind. Emrys hesitated for long moments, but eventually overcame his feelings of dread and also entered the portal.

James, the only one to remain after Emrys went through, watched as the wisps of light that had been getting caught in the pull of the void started to chaotically flicker like lightning. The flickering rapidly became more erratic and there was a rumble coming from the portal that started to shake the foundation of the tower. Cracks started to appear in the marble archway that held the portal, and James knew that there was something about Emrys that had caused the disruption. Knowing this, he dove into the rift without further hesitation, forced to leave the silk bag of heavy books behind.