Previously, the heroes reconvened after their disturbing encounter with Xarrombus in order to find a suitable way forward. They had decided to visit the Sacred Baths of Sedna in order to convince Emma to take ownership, which did not come without a commitment from the heroes themselves.
Fourth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262
(Silvermoon is waxing, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waning)
The Kingsport midday was cold and wet when the heroes left the Sacred Baths after having transferred the possession of the tablets to Emma. James, still angry and disappointed at Emma’s reluctance to helping the heroes without recompense, wanted to talk to the day master, but understood that his master might be compromised by Xarrombus. It was clear to more than just himself that on the two occasions that the heroes confronted the aberrant lords, in Arkenward’s sanctum and at the orphanage in Grimsdown, that it was implied that the Upright Man and Xarrombus was, at the very least, in league with one another. “The Upright Man would not be opposed,” the aberrant lord in the sanctum said; “Xarrombus won’t be denied,” the aberrant lord at the orphanage had mirrored.
The heroes felt that another conversation with Réonan was in order; they were the vault keeper responsible for the Kingsport vault; they summoned Xarrombus to be the vault’s guardian; they had a lot to answer for. They made their way to the circle in Ravensbourne.
As the heroes crossed the Queensbridge, they saw Goodman, the crier, standing in the rain protected by a weather-treated cloak, proclamating the news. Together with the notice board on Steward Square, Goodman was one of the best way to learn about what was happening in the city and across the kingdom. One such rumours was that Silesian refugees were pouring across the border fleeing a terrible evil that was rising in the east. Another was that the queen had not been seen in public, nor her handmaid. It was said that the queen had developed quite a temper in the wake of her illness.
As the heroes arrived, Olafur opened the door and let them into the lobby. He used a quick charm to warm the heroes up and dry their clothing, showing that he was not without his own magical talents. Olafur already knew the heroes were there to speak to Réonan but insisted on knowing what it would be concerning so that he could convey it to the head archmage. When Luca informed Olafur that the heroes wanted to speak about a vault keeper, he took that and left them to wait in his chambers adjacent to the lobby.
While the heroes waited it was clear that James’ façade was fading and that he no longer had the ability to keep up appearances. The previous night’s work had taken its toll on him and he could no longer pretend to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. At the same time, Quentin promised to control his temper in the face of Réonan for the sake of Hamish, but that warned the others to question everything that the outsider would say.
When Réonan finally walked into Olafur’s chambers, they asked for the custodian of the circle to stay outside. It was hard for the heroes not to be in awe of them as the understanding of their nature had recently become clear. Luca was determined not to succumb to that awe and immediately got into Réonan’s face, accusing them of not just knowing about the Xarrombus, but not doing anything about it while its influence in Kingsport grew.
Réonan took a measured step back and Luca immediately stepped forward. At that point, Réonan warned Luca to keep his distance. The warlock realised that he was coming across too heated and cooled his temper, just in time for Quentin to step in. Réonan’s patience was wearing thin and some biting remarks were exchanged. It was Emrys who kept his cool and diffused the situation.
“I am from beyond the threshold, grave knight,” Réonan hissed. “You should have stayed there,” the Quentin retorted. “If I had, you would never have been born,” the head of the circle shot back.
Emrys asked Réonan what Xarrombus was, and why it was summoned. The arch mage explained that they, indeed, had been the keeper of the vault in Newport, as Kingsport had been known during the Age of Fear. They had summoned Xarrombus to be the vault’s guardian, just before the Great Waning set in. Everyone at the time recognised that the vaults would need protecting across the ages. Réonan claimed many vaults have been or are empty, and many more would be if it had not been for the guardians. The vault at Dunagore was empty, the Kalauranthalasis had taken control of the vault at Wyrmblood Lake, and an invasion of orcs were plundering a vault at the heart of Northshire.
The conversation shifted to Xarrombus and what it was after and Luca theorised that it was using the dark delirium that Hamish could produce in order to sleep, which in turn would allow it to procreate, though it was not clear how it did that through sleep. James posed that it was quite possible that Hamish was one of the first to have been infected by the slugs that they had found in the eye socket of both his mother, as well as Vydia.
The lack of clear answers from Réonan was beginning to frustrate some of the heroes, and the conversation turned tense. Réonan became defensive and retorted that, just like Toruviel, which they referred to as “the aeromancer”, Réonan was only slowly waking up as the tide of magic was rising. They also bit off accusations of inaction by reminding the heroes that they are “but Grigori”, supposedly the lowest choir of angels, and not like Aurion, “not like the Malakites, nor the Seraphim,” as if that was supposed to mean something to the heroes.
When things had calmed down again Astrid asked Réonan why they needed to wake up and get to their full power when it seemed that Xarrombus had gained in power since the Great Waning. Réonan speculated that the source of Xarrombus’ power might not be magic. Emrys built upon that hypothesis and suggested that Xarrombus might be gaining power by extending its network, rather than the rising tide of magic.
Réonan was unable to say who the upright man was, but speculated that they must had been around for more than a generation and the upright man had always been in charge of the Steady Hand. Their conclusion was that the upright man might be extra-planar.
The heroes asked whether Réonan could provide them with the means to detect the slugs in people so that they may determine who was an agent of Xarrombus. The heroes showed the dead slug they had retrieved from Jeanne, as well as the live slug that was extracted from Vydia, and Réonan concluded that they were likely the spawn of Xarrombus himself. But just like the time the heroes asked them for help in hiding the tablets their help was unforthcoming.
Frustrated the heroes decided that Réonan was a waste of their time and left Olafur’s chambers. Once outside of the circle Astrid stopped the heroes and suggested a vow; to never rely on celestials. James was quick to reject the vow, claiming that he would walk his own path. Not for the first time, Astrid looked deflated and rejected, and without a word continued walking.
On the way back to the Careless Wanderer the conversation was started up again. Quentin wanted to know how James knew that the day master was not infected, and James had to admit that he wasn’t sure. Luca added that it was strange that James’ mother attacked the butcher while under the influence of Kalina and Melchior. James agreed that it was strange and believed that at the time of the attack she had not been infected yet.
Briefly, the heroes started to question whether or not Hamish was worth rescuing, but it became very clear that Hamish meant an awful lot to Luca; despite the mage not being the easiest person to get along with, Luca valued his friendship a lot, mostly because he did not have a lot of people he could call a friend. As he was looking to make friends with people at the Circle of Magi, Hamish was the only person that accepted him; he felt accepted by Hamish.
By the time that the heroes got back to the Wanderer James had decided against visiting the day master; it was too dangerous and there was no use in a visit. Instead he was thinking of thinking preparing a dead-drop; in case of their death he wanted to release a prepared letter.
At the Wanderer the heroes walked into the tavern and were once again surrounded by a horde of fishermen. One of them was wearing an eyepatch, which reminded him of the first time he walked into the back of the butcher shop to meet with the day master; it the previous summer and the butcher asked him to meet with a nobleman, Marcus of house Sheridan. As James took the assignment and was getting ready to depart, the butcher tapped himself on his glass eye with the tip of a knife and told James he would be keeping an eye on him. It was at that point that James suddenly realised that his master was likely infected by Xarrombus’ spawn as well.