Previously, the heroes confronted and defeated Xarrombus, the otherworldly aberration which had been controlling the Steady Hand. When Xarrombus died, so did the people that Xarrombus dominated, including Hamish and the night master. As the heroes were recovering from the fight, the day master arrived to investigate what was going on, and deputised James as the new night master.
Sixth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262
(Silvermoon is waxing, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is in low sanction)
When the day master had departed the Newport vault James opened his bag of thievery and retrieved several bottles of spirits. He handed one out to Astrid, who popped the cork with her teeth, took a strong swig, and then use it to wash Xarrombus’ innards off her face with it. Jan had a harder time accepting the spirits. He fumbled around with one hand trying to open the bottle, having lost his other arm in the battle with Xarrombus. He tried to mimic Astrid, but found that he couldn’t pop the cork with his teeth on account of having lost several of them. James helped him out, unable to bear the fumbling.
Quentin was sitting at Luca’s side, consoling him with his presence as the young warlock was mourning the death of Hamish. Quentin began to sing a melancholic Beaclair ballad, while rhythmically thumping on Ser Fulton’s shield, while Brandomiir harmonised with him by solemnly humming along. Quentin had recovered the shield after Ser Fulton fell in the fight against Atilesceon. To Quentin, the shield became a symbol of those who had died along the way, and the ultimate sacrifice they had made in order to ensure victory.
Jan eventually joined Luca and together they sat in prayer over the body of Hamish. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Luca could not let go of the last intrusive message that Xarrombus sent before its death, about missing the darkness of the void. It resonated with him because of Blackstar, who often mentioned the void. Until now, Luca had taken that to mean the “ultimate unmaking”, rather than a place or a state of being.
All the while, Quentin could not help but feel resentment towards Réonan for unleashing Xarrombus on the world, not shackling it thoroughly enough, and ultimately not taking any responsibility for nullifying the threat Xarrombus posed to the people of Kingsport.
James asked Brandomiir what his plans were, now that the night master had been replaced and he could keep the guild from seeking retribution on him. Brando shared that he had considered going back to his people and laying low for the winter. When James offered him a job, he seemed to be agreeable to the idea, though he considered himself more of a freelancer. Emrys joined the two and together they searched the night master’s body. They found a note and a locked scroll case. The note read:
I know we have not spoken in many years, and that we have often operated on opposite sides of the queen’s law. And I know what hurt our family has done to you may never be repaired. But I know that your feelings towards our family never included me, and I’m confident that you know that I was always fond of you and pushed back as much as I was able at that time.
In that spirit I hope you will consider sending whatever aid you can to the Tiverton Glades in order to find out more about the leadership of the horde that terrorises the north.
Under his clothes, next to the medallion that the day master had retrieved from around his neck, the night master wore another medallion, made of onyx and carved in the shape of a raven, displayed. The revelation of the identity of the night master, and his relation to the lady commander of the crownsguard, made the heroes forget all about the locked scroll case they retrieved from his body.
Emrys remarked that it was likely that the medallion that James was given by the day master was the method by which the day and night master could communicate with one another. This prompted James to convince Luca to attune his senses to the presence of powerful magics. Luca, initially reluctant because of the loss of his friend, eventually complied, and after a lengthy ritual, found that besides the night master’s medallion and scroll case, that the library had two more items that were magical.
On one of the book shelves stood a long box, inside of which were half a dozen red candles, approximately a foot in length, covered in strange inscriptions that even Quentin couldn’t read. There was also a book wheel; a piece of furniture which looked like a rotating book case or lectern, designed to allow a person to swiftly peruse up to seven open books at the same time.
After the heroes took a moment to investigate the remaining corridors again, they came to the conclusion that each of the corridors had subtly different decorations and statues. The statues of the celestials were distinctly more martial in the northern corridor, and more pious in the western corridor. The eastern corridor had celestials who were depicted as more studious, while in the southern corridor the celestials were more pensive. A decision was made to follow the western corridor.
Like the northern corridor, the western corridor terminated at a large, tangled mass of thick, calcified vines that were blocking the way. After a couple of hours of applying brute force, they made their way through to the other side, only to find that the room was filled with a pile of religious items of all descriptions.
There were altars carved from wood, stone and ivory; icons sculpted carved and painted; tapestries with heavenly images, images of prophets, martyrs and apocrypha; religious books and testaments; cups, chalices, staves and rods; wooden cabinets with doors which revealed intricate religious triptychs decorated with gold leaf. What surprised the most was how carelessly the items were stored, standing in stark contrast to the meticulous care with which the artwork had been displayed in the gallery to the south.
Among all of that the heroes found two round tablets which were part of the Tablets of the Elemental Eye. They were stored in a large, ironbound chest which had been literally rooted to the spot by calcified tentacles that made up Xarrombus’ appendages.
Quentin searches specifically for any items that related to the Raven Queen and quickly found a black cloak, lined along the cowl and shoulders with black feathers, which he immediately knew to have a religious significance to the Matron of Death. He decided to take it.
The heroes decided that James would hold the two tablets in his bag of thievery, and that Hamish’s body should likely be stored there too, since carrying his body to the surface would likely be too cumbersome.
When the heroes went to the end of the northern corridor they were once again confronted with the calcified tentacles of Xarrombus’ body, blocking the way. This time, Emrys used his magic to animate the tools needed to do most of the work which had been done to the western blockade by the heroes themselves. In short order the tentacles were cleared, and an old armoury, mostly empty, was revealed.
It was surmised that many of the items that may once have been stored in the armoury had likely been sold and the proceeds used to jump start the organisation of the Steady Hand. And yet, there were still a few items of note that could be found, which bore further investigation, most of them weapons of different types. Two unusual items were amount them, a simple, canvas cloak, stained red with blood, and a lacquered box with tattooing equipment.
The heroes had lost all sense of time, but each of them felt tired. Brandomiir and Jan, especially, had been through quite the ordeal even before coming down into the vault, and needed rest. Everyone made themselves as comfortable as they could, down in a cold vault, surrounded by tentacles of a dead aberration, and tried to get some sleep.
Seventh Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262
(Silvermoon is waxing, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waxing)
The heroes were awoken by tremours rumbling through the vault. It was quickly discovered that Xarrombus’ tentacles, running all throughout the complex, had lost some of their integrity and were causing the stir. Shortly after Réonan got in touch with Luca through their ring and asked whether the vault guardian had been defeated, since the teleportation circle had been activated. This prompted the heroes to leave the vault.
Just like the decent into the vault, the ascent was aided by Emrys’ magic. Emrys was one of the last to fly up and carried Jan with him. He heard the man recite the names of the faces displayed on the wall of shaft under his breath. “Raphael, Elohim. Michael, Malakim. Uriel, Seraphim. Gabriel, Cherubim.” When mentioning Uriel, it was undeniable that the man cast a quick, worried glance to Luca, which Emrys caught. Emrys asked whether these were saints in the church of Paladine, and Jan countered that each was an archangel.
When the group had reached the top and found themselves in the round entrance, they were confronted with the same predicament as when they first arrived; there seemingly was no way in our out. Réonan had hinted that besides the teleportation circle, there must be portals in and out, which was corroborated by the coming and subsequent going of the day master. After some time, the heroes found that at the spot of their original arrival, there was a circle of minute lyrium crystals on the wall. Soon after a lock was found, not unlike the ones they had found in the Sunken Vault, but much simpler in structure. Once the lock was found it took no time at all for the heroes to recognise that the medallion of the night master held the key.
A portal opened up and it was unanimously decided that Emrys, with the portal disrupting quality of his bloodline, would enter last. A group of Steady Hand members were waiting on the other side of the portal, prewarned by the day master that the new night master would arrive shortly. They immediately deferred to James’ authority upon seeing the medallion. James took charge of the rogues like a fish took to water, and he ordered them to escort the rest of the group (minus Brandomiir) safely to the surface.
Once the group finally made it topside, they stepped out into empty streets of Kingsport. The sun had just set and the air was still with frost. A blanket of snow had covered the city, and large braziers had been lit to light the streets. Curfew had gone into effect, and the heroes hurried home to the Careless Wanderer.
It felt as if they had been lost in the ancient waterways for a season; leaving at the tail end of autumn and returning in the middle of winter.