Previously, the heroes returned to the Careless Wanderer after their confrontation with Xarrombus in the Newport vault. There they met Neamhan, a visitor of Kingsport who had travelled down from the mountains of Ard Thoradun to look for the origins of her magic.
Eighth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262
(Silvermoon is in high sanction, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waxing)
The heroes had followed Neamhan as she went in search of someone to talk to regarding magic at the Cathedral of the Platinum Father. They stood in the back of the cathedral as Neamhan spoke to brother Sartinius. Having just learned of the attack on Kingsport by a fiend named Epidemius, the heroes discussed the situation and put it in light of the rest of their priorities.
Luca remarked that it would be another six days before Epidemius would return to Kingsport to claim his Book of Woe, as per his ultimatum to queen Isabella. That was something which could easily be avoided by simply leaving Kingsport before that happened, but without a legitimate reason to depart it seemed like a non-starter for some. When Luca asked Quentin whether he intended to be in Kingsport when his father arrived with the Beauclair delegation, Quentin said that he thought he ought to be, but it sounded like it was decision born from obligation rather than desire.
Quentin mentioned that given the precarious situation of Kingsport that a host of mounted knights would not be casually welcomed into the city. The heroes were unanimous that James would be able to marshal forces from his guild, but that it might not be sufficient to help Kingsport withstand the corruption of Epidemius. First and foremost, the heroes agreed that they should speak to the Lady Commander of the Crownsguard, dame Miranda Ravensbourne. Not just about what was befalling the city, but also about her brother, the former night master.
While the heroes were having this conversation together, Neamhan was still questioning brother Sartinius about all matter of arcane and divine and in particular whether her magic might have a divine origin. Having the patience of an angel, he explained that the absolute origin of magic might only be known by the Gods. During the Age of Arcanum, when the tide of magic was at its zenith, brother Sartinius reckoned that there were people that were such keen channelers of the arcane and the divine that they were able to do things which would be considered miracles now. Some of those might have had such a pure and acute connection with the Gods that they may well have been able to have a conversation with them. Only they might be in a position to know instead of believe in the origin of magic. If the Gods were not the origin of magic, then perhaps the Gods had a creator of their own, and perhaps that creator was the source. Sartinius could not say.
When Neamhan returned to the heroes she proclaimed that she need to find someone who could talk to the Gods in order to confirm whether the Gods had a creator of their own. It was at this point that Emrys decided to formally introduce himself. Quentin and Luca followed suit. Quentin said that the cathedral, which once was a place of solace and comfort, now made him uncomfortable. He wished to leave and Emrys suggested returning to the Careless Wanderer.
As the group left the cathedral, Quentin noticed the familiar sight of the banner of House Morvrayne, red and blue with a white swan volant, on the spear of a rider on a fast courser riding from the direction of the Careless Wanderer, across Stewards Square, and towards Queen’s Bridge. Quentin explained that they were called “bannerettes”, standard bearers and messengers used during wartime. It was clear to all that the appearance of the rider had startled Quentin and that he was not ready for the confrontation with the delegation from Beauclair. He believed that they had come to retrieve Róisín, and that the sword might well play a part in the complicated politics of le Royaume de Beauclair.
The heroes briefly took in the messages posted to the notice board on Steward’s Square before heading for the Careless Wanderer.
The common room at the Careless Wanderer had come to life. The fishermen who were waiting out the final days before the end of the fishing competition were in good spirits and the hearths kept the everyone warm.
Lauryn handed Quentin a letter which had been delivered by a rider. She assured him that the rider was well aware that Quentin was staying at the inn, but that she had not said anything about his whereabouts. The letter was secured with a blue seal of a swan, and read as follows:
My dear son,
The road to Kingsport has been long and I am weary of travelling. With the snow upon us the pace has significantly slowed. A few days ago we were set upon by bandits in the night. They made off with some of our provisions and injured some of the guards. The next day we were joined by a retinue of knights of the Order of the Lance who accompanied us to Blue Harbour, from where I’m writing you now.
Highlord Gaulthier has shared some more of his plans with me; he intends to seek permission from the Lyrian court to establish an embassy in Kingsport. He believes that if the Age of Peace is over, it would be wise to have strong allies. We might require your aid should the queen need convincing; if the knights that accompanied us are to be believed, you have aided her before, and might trust you to council her in this matter.
By the swan.
Lord Dorian of House Morvrayne
It was suggested that in light of this news that the group could use a strong drink which would keep them warm. Lauryn knew just the solution and provided the table with a bottle of spirits distilled by Wojciech, the stablemaster of the Careless Wanderer. Astrid joined the table to partake, and Neamhan also introduced herself formally. Astrid introduced herself as Astrid Sigurðardóttir, hailing from Hammerstrand, Helmark.
It was decided that one of the first tasks on a long list of tasks was to talk to the lady commander. They wanted to deliver to her the bad news of the passing of the night master, as well as check in with her on Epidemius and the state of the kingdom.
Neamhan asked whether she could join the heroes, and assured them that she could turn invisible if needed. Upon further investigation, Neamhan didn’t mean that literally, but instead had the rare ability to polymorph herself and potentially others into different shapes. She could make herself small and hide amongst the folds of someone’s clothes, like Luca’s dragonling. Luca knew that to be an incredibly rare ability and one which Emrys had mastered, but not without a certain price that needed to be paid in pain and anguish by the subject of the enchantment. This did not seem to be the case with Neamhan, and Astrid immediately enquired whether she could turn her into an eagle.
The group left the inn and found the lady commander Miranda Ravensbourne grooming her griffon in the courtyard of the crownsguard garrison on Steward’s Square. She was not wearing her armour, but rather wearing a simple outfit complimented with some furs around her shoulders. Frostfeather, her enormous griffon, was feeding on large slabs of venison while she cared for it.
The lady commander was surrounded by crownsguard in the throws of weapon training, planning and strategising and dealing with logistics. When the heroes noted the sensitive nature of their visit, lady Miranda dismissed the others from the courtyard and waited for everyone to depart.
After an exchange about Epidemius and the ratmen in the waterways, Luca managed to lend evidence to the identity of the one who lead the attack on Steward Square; Epidemius the Cataloguer, Lord of Decay, One of the Seven Proctors of Pestilence. Devoted Underling of Baalzebul the Calabite, Ruler of the Seventh, Lord of Maladomini.
The heroes also explained that the Upright Man was no more, and that the distribution of dark delirium would slowly come to a halt due to the heroes’ intervention. They also explained that the large number of people dying in their sleep was due to the dark delirium. They also explained that her brother had perished in that exchange, and returned the letter she had written him as proof.
Lady Miranda steeled herself and asked a few questions for clarification and quickly explained that she would make arrangements for the silent sisters of the House of the Raven Queen to take care of the body of her brother so that he may be interred with the rest of her family at their home in the Tiverton Glades.
It became clear that the lady commander had too much to deal with and was struggling to handle everything at once. It was all exacerbated by the queen’s harsher stance of late. She had turned more authoritarian and felt that the only way to assert dominance over the queen’s council was to take some bold decisions, like the formation of the royal army to confront the rebel lords in Farcorner.
The lady commander was also able to inform the heroes that a band of bandits had been causing trouble in the Riverlands and the southern part of the Silverpine Hills, which reportedly spoke in archaic Lyrian, suggesting that they were part of the cursed crusaders who had not returned to their ancestral lands or the knightly orders they once belonged to.
Invading orcs, skirmishes with the Daerlan empire, rebel lords, Epidemius, plaguemaidens in Grimsdown, dark delirium, the weakening of the Steady Hand, the Ravnos, it was all too much for the kingdom.
It was then that Neamhan decided to perform a ritual while the rest of the group spoke about the details of the kingdom’s troubles. She touched the ground, expanded her consciousness into it until she made a connection with the city and any of its environs. The city had to endure a lot in recent times, mostly from the unnatural and otherworldly, so that was the first thing Neamhan felt for; were there any other such influences?
The response which came to her indicated that there was three, major otherworldly influences on the city. There was a celestial presence somewhere around Steward’s Square, and another in a strange building to the north, near the Elysian street. But the strongest came from a hill to the west, and the presence there was one of death.
When Neamhan broke off her connection she informed the others about the influence on the hill to the west, everyone drew the same conclusion; it must be coming from the palace on Garamond Hill. The lady commander immediately acted by donning her armour and commanding her squire to saddle Frostfeather. Within moments she took flight, Frostfeather darkening the sky overhead with its massive wingspan. She headed towards the palace, but not before imploring the heroes to find more information about Epidemius.