Tag: A Dark Delirium

Struggle, Survival and Succession

Previously, the heroes had infiltrated the night master’s hideout and followed him, through a portal, into the Newport vault. There they found Xarrombus, the mysterious creature known in Kingsport as the Upright Man, the leader of the Steady Hand.

Sixth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

The heroes had decided that Xarrombus was a malicious force which formed an existential threat to the safety of the people of Kingsport. Just as they were about to confront Xarrombus, James decided that he wanted to parlay with the alien creature. Uncharacteristically, Quentin vehemently opposed James, claiming that it was too dangerous to allow to remain. And uncharacteristically, James did not press the matter.

And so, the heroes, supported by Jan the custodian, and Brandomiir, marched into the room. Only a few of them had already been able to lay eyes on the grotesque form of Xarrombus, but what they found when carrying some light into the room still shocked them.

To their surprise, the aberrant lords around the room did not pay them any attention and went on with their research, feverishly perusing the books on the shelves. Several people carrying a crown of flesh, including the night master, stood blank faced in the room. Some of them looked as if they had been there for a long time, their bodies emaciated and frail. Some of them were partially embedded in the calcified growth of Xarrombus’ tentacles.

A humongous eyeball was sitting on a bed of hard digits which disappeared in a dark mist which obscured the ground. The vertically slitted pupil, like that of an a lizard, was darting nervously around the room. Half a dozen smaller eyes, about the size of a human head, were floating menacingly in the orbit of the large eye. They had smaller tentacles spilled down at the bottom of the eyeball and they all seemed to be protected by a faintly blue glowing shield of energy.

Once it became clear that the confrontation would not be avoided, Xarrombus erupted a ruinous beam of energy from its great, central eye which struck the heroes, chaining like lightning, jumping from one to the other. The smaller eyes in the monstrous sphere’s orbit sent out their own beams of psychic energy, each having different effects. Each time a floating eye would project their beams their shield would temporarily drop, allowing them to be vulnerable to the attacks of the heroes. Swatting away the smaller eyes was always temporary, since new eyes constantly sprang up from the honeycomb holes in Xarrombus’ tentacles.

Despite the onslaught of damage and confusion Xarrombus caused, its central eye was susceptible to attack. James’ volley of arrows, Emrys’ barrage of telekinetic sorcery, Luca’s rapid eldritch blasts, and Quentin and Astrid’s blades, deft and savage, respectively, soon wounded the eye significantly that Xarrombus changed its attack. The large eye retreated into the bulk of Xarrombus’ body, and the hard digits closed over it, protectively. The ground shook as Xarrombus’ tentacles shifted and it raised its body up over the black mist, revealing a body covered with chitinous plates. Eyes still revealed themselves along the body, but the heroes found it nearly impossible to truly hurt Xarrombus.

Large tentacles burst forth from the ground which had large maws at the end of them. They would batter and bludgeon the heroes and occasionally swallow them whole. Those that were quickly found themselves slowly suffocating and eaten alive, literally, as they moved through Xarrombus’ digestive tract. They found, however, that they had just enough room to manoeuvre and attack from the inside, and Xarrombus seemed very displeased by that, belching and puking up the heroes as soon as possible.

Finally the heroes spotted the light at the end of the tunnel, since the heroes were battered, wounded and frustrated. Luca had lost consciousness. Jan had fought valiantly, until a blast from one of the floating eyes had disintegrated his arm. Brandomiir had spent the early part of the fight in a blind panic, brought on by the mind-altering beams from one of the eyes. For a long while it had not been looking good.

After several heroes had stopped resisting the mawed tentacles and had gone through Xarrombus’ gut, being puked up each time it became too much, Astrid drank a potion that gave her supernatural speed and practically dove into one of the maws. The cumulative damage done to Xarrombus’ insides proved too much, and Astrid carved her way out of the side of the great aberration.

With a last message, Xarrombus claimed that it missed the darkness of the void, and a final psychic ripple went out from it, as it died. That ripple touched the aberrant lords around it, who seized up and dropped out of the air. The people wearing the crowns of flesh dropped to the ground without as much as a sound; including Hamish. And the night master. When the ripple had faded away, the oppressive, psychic intrusion that Xarrombus had been applying on the heroes also faded, leaving them feeling relieved.

When the dust had settled, first aid had been given to those in need, and the reality of the situation set in, a group of people appeared at the entrance to the vault, headed by the day master. Mortified, the day master and his bodyguards walked past Luca, who was grieving over Hamish, and into the room where the body of Xarrombus lay. He was silent as he lay witness to the aftermath. The day master recovered from the shock quickly, and went to search for the night master.

When he found the night master’s body, the burly man knelt down and started rifling through the night master’s clothing. James came to stand beside him with his arms crossed over his chest, and when the day master was done he recovered a simple medallion on a golden chain. It looked faintly like those worn by the magistrates James had seen on his travels.

The day master regarded the medallion and looked remorseful, saying that the night master and he were friends once. He then placed a big hand that held the medallion against James chest. “Take it,” he said, “there is a lot of work to be done.” When James did not immediately take the medallion, the day master dropped it in his folded arms and explained that the only reason the guild had survived all the challenges it had faced was because the upright man was pulling the strings. Without Xarrombus the guild would be weak.

Without another word the day master and his body guards marched out of the library leaving the heroes to deal with the aftermath.

The Newport Vault

Previously, the heroes infiltrated the night master’s headquarters, defeated the opposing rogues and aberrant lords, sent the night master to retreat through a portal, and liberated the still unresponsive Hamish. They also managed to free Brandomiir and a custodian named Jan from captivity. Their exit from the headquarters through the ancient waterways was going to be made difficult by an incoming swarm of skaven, so they decided to follow the night master through the portal, only to find themselves in the Newport Vault, where Xarrombus made its home.

Sixth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

It must have been in the depth of night. Nobody really knew what time it was; all except for Luca, who had the uncanny ability to keep track of time, even when in a dark, cavernous room like the Hall of the Senhadrim of the Newport vault. Everyone was tired, but unsure on whether to take rest or press on.

Quentin took the others aside and away from Hamish, Brando and Jan. He wanted to have a word in private and counted on Astrid to keep the others busy. She did so with a game of Demon Dice. Quentin asked Luca whether it would be possible to use Blackstar to consume the parasite he believed had infested Hamish without harming the young mage. Luca got emotional as he believed Blackstar to be too blunt of an instrument and he cared too much about Hamish to jeopardise him like that.

In the end the decision was made to rest. Luca had made the effort to carry a small tent around the ancient waterways, but he got the last laugh as he pitched a tent, in the Hall of the Senhadrim, for his friend Hamish to rest in. Quentin and Emrys both had a more modest bedroll, and Jan relied on his stoic discipline to get him through the night seated against the round wall. Astrid also didn’t complain. James and Brando stood watch, making sure the group would not be overwhelmed by the slugs crawling up from the deep.

Without the ability to accurately gauge the passage of time, the group rested until they felt ready to move on. Options to heal and bandage up were limited due to not having a healing kit with them, but it allowed they were able to prepare spells and sort their gear. The group shared a simple breakfast as they went over the plan on descending deeper into the vault.

When Emrys cast his spell and bestowed Astrid with the ability of flight, she soared along the tall ceiling of the domed hall. She had only just complained that she “could not hear the Eagle down here” and only minutes later did she hover above the shaft leading down, her gold eyes gleaming as her face briefly took on the features of a large bird of prey.

Astrid carried people down to the different faces that were set into each of the cardinal directions of the shaft’s wall. Each face was slightly different; one handsome, one regal, one with a beard, one bald. There was just enough space on top of the faces for three people to stand comfortably, and so the trip was done in stages. All the while, Jan was marvelling at the enormous sculptures in awe, recognising them for celestial figures in service to the Platinum Father.

As the group descended further down, the pressure on their ears began growing, as if plunging deep under water. It was at that moment that each of the heroes were reminded of a vivid memory of their past.

James remembered being sent out as a rogue apprentice to rob the valuables from a well-guarded mansion. The guild had found out that there was a gap in the mansion’s defences; there was a way into the mansion’s basement, accessible through a flooded corridor in the ancient waterways. He went out with two other apprentices and dove into a nearby public well. The swim was long and deep. One of the two apprentices had to turn back in order not to drown. The other who made it into the basement of the mansion with James unfortunately didn’t make it out with the valuables, instead dying at the blade of one of the house guards.

The memory that came to Luca was that of his time growing up in Hamlet, a small village in the Elder Foothills. A game the children often played in the summer was to see who could swim from one end of the spring to the other. Wyla and Jonah made it, but he was a few years younger than them, and the turbulent water slammed him against the rocks. He was pulled under and blacked out. He woke up with his father standing over him, screaming in his face.

When Quentin was six or seven years old his family made a trip to Sanségal, the capital of his homeland. Before departure, the master of arms of his house had gifted him his first blade; a long poignard. He cherished it, taking it everywhere he went. Including going for a swim on the shores of Lac Sanssouci. There the blade slipped from his belt and it sank to the bottom. He immediately decided to dive after it, but the lake was so deep that his ears were near bursting and he had not reached the bottom yet. He was not able to recover the dagger.

The mounting pressure reminded Emrys of something different than the others; for him it was the first time his erratic magical abilities started to manifest. They came without warning while he was out in the woods, playing with the other Aen Adhar children. He was suddenly seized by headaches and it felt like his head was stuck in a vice. Harmless illusions materialised all around him, and once the episode passed, he felt exhausted.

Astrid’s memory was that of being throw off a ship into the Bay of Teeth, bound by chains, by the people who would usurp her father.

For a brief moment, during the descent, the heroes shared these memories with one another. It was not immediately clear to them why they had suddenly established this psychic connection, nor did they speak about it, but they were left wondering whether their proximity to Xarrombus had something to do with it.

When the group finally reached the bottom, they found themselves on the intersection of four corridors, each leading off to one of the four cardinal directions. The corridors were built in the same style as the rest of the vault, but in many places the walls, floors and ceilings were covered in a biomechanoid material growing in and out of the stone, like roots punching through the floor. These vines had tentacled their way almost everywhere, some of it fresh and soft to the touch, while others were old, thick, and calcified to almost resemble stone. Parts of the fresh vines were covered in holes, all in a neat pattern, like honeycomb. Inside were slimy things gestating and it became clear what the source of the slugs were.

Only one of the four corridors showed some light, which was a relief to all those in the group who were not gifted darkvision at birth. Heading there, they noticed that the corridor was lined with statues of celestial warriors. At the end of the corridor the door opened up into a large, circular room, lined with rows and rows of paintings, each of them in glass cases, framed with wood. The cases were illuminated by tiny, bronze lanterns which emitted no smoke, and were decorated by strings of emeralds, cut in the shape of leaves.

The paintings were all in the theme of divinity, showing angels, saints and prophets. Each of them had been so meticulously displayed as if they were about to go under the hammer at the Landsdowne auction house in Bournemouth.

But the paintings were not the main source of light in the room; that came primarily from the outstretched hands of two, twenty-foot tall, golden statues. Each consisted of the shape of three women, standing back to back in a triangle, there arms thrusted outward and up, their palms to the ceiling. One of the women was an ancient crone, the next a woman in the full bloom of her strength and maturity, and the third was that of a woman who had just matured out of childhood. The flames of one statue were a golden green, while the others were an icy blue.

Luca briefly wondered whether the art had been made by Réonan, and compared it to some of the art he had seen on display at the Circle of Magi. Unfortunately he did not recognise the style to be similar.

After some time had passed, in which the voice of Xarrombus was constantly droning away, undermining the resolve of the heroes and their companions, the group decided to investigate the other corridors. The northern corridor was similar to the one leading to the gallery, but ended up being blocked by a mass of vines thick enough to not just bar the way, but also prevent anyone from peering beyond. Even the little dragonling had no hope of squeezing through. The same turned out to be true for the western corridor.

When the heroes approached the eastern corridor, Emrys, with his keen elven senses, aided greatly by Toruviel, spotted earlier than others what was in the circular room beyond. He saw a great eye, sitting atop a crawling mess of tentacles, surrounded by a black mist reaching to about mid-thigh. Smaller eyes were floating in orbit around the great eye, and it appeared as if several aberrant lords were tending to long shelves, filled with books, librams, manuscripts, scrolls and folios, which were carved into the circular walls.

There were others in the room, including the night master. Most of them were human, some of them seemed frail and emaciated, embedded in the vines that came from the walls and floor. Sometimes, the aberrant lords hovered over to one of them, showing them a manuscript as if consulting with them.

Instinctively, Quentin covered the hood of his lantern, to which James scoffed at the thought that the heroes could keep anything from Xarrombus. This seem to remind the rogue to bind and gag Hamish, which he dutifully did again without protest from the others, even Luca.

The heroes decided to return to the gallery and consider what they’d seen, weigh their options, and come up with a plan. After some deliberation, Emrys suggested he commune with Toruviel. While the blade was more communicative than it has been in the past, it did not immediately present Emrys with something useful. It did not know much about the Newport vault, since they had already transferred themselves into the blade by that point.

Toruviel could identify the two sets of statues as being representations of the winter and summer court that ruled over the Feywild, and it speculated that Xarrombus might have a fascination with the fey and the shadow realms because these are the only alternate realities that are easily accessible from within the Ethereal Mist.

The blade also warned Emrys that when confronting Xarrombus, the heroes might just be facing the aberration and its minions, but potentially the very vault itself. The aberrant overlord could will things into existence, so it was not unthinkable that the very nature of reality could be bent to its will. A sign of this were the occasional eyes that opened up on the vines, as well as a statue of a celestial warrior subtly shift it’s weight from one leg to another.

Emrys asked questions about the vaults, their purpose, and Toruviel shared what the heroes had already learned in the last couple of months; they were meant as a stronghold against invasions from beyond. While the elder races had their own way of surviving the Conjunction of Planes, humans were left to fend for themselves. They constructed fortresses and hid behind walls. It was only when the properties of lyrium were discovered that the playing field was levelled. This reminded the heroes that the precious crystals could aid them in the confrontation to come.

When Emrys shared what he had learned, Quentin turned to regard the two sets of golden statues. He had looked at them, but had not truly regarded them before. He sensed that these statues were not quite good, not quite evil. Neither, and both, all at once. He had a sense that if it came to a route, rallying around the statues, in particular the ones of the summer court, might prove beneficial.

The heroes decided to confront Xarrombus and redistributed some weapons to their companions who did not have any. Quentin shared that he had seen some interesting tactics employed by outlaws in Beauclair that involved lighting a cloth wrapped around the neck of a bottle of strong spirits on fire. James was not willing to part with the collection he kept in his bag, but Brandomiir was given a crossbow with several bolts instead.

And so the heroes returned to the library, where Xarrombus still waited.

Out of the Frying Pan

Previously, our heroes managed to infiltrate the headquarters of the night master in an attempt to find and liberate Luca’s good friend Hamish. During the rescue attempt several aberrant lords tried to interfere, but the heroes defeated them, as well as several guild members. Unfortunately, Hamish seemed to have been robbed of his faculties, and to top it off, the heroes found their exit quickly being cut off by what sounded like a horde of skaven.

Fifth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waning)

The heroes had defeated several aberrant lords as well as a handful guild members who decided to oppose them. The rest of the guild members had either departed into the ancient waterways, or had hid behind sturdy doors and showed no interest in showing themselves. Besides liberating Hamish, the heroes also managed to save Brandomiir from guild interrogators, as well as a custodian named Jan who had been taken hostage and subsequently had a slug implanted in his eye by one of the aberrant lords.

Quentin asked James whether he knew an alternate route out of the night master’s headquarters, hoping that the young rogue could combine his experience in the ancient waterways with what he learned during their time in the carceratum. Unfortunately, James thought that the only two options the heroes had were departing through the ancient waterways and risk getting cut off by the skaven, or departing through the portal they had seen in the night master’s room.

While the rest of the heroes discussed the two options, Luca tended to Brandomiir’s wounds by calling upon the power of his patron. Since the last time that Luca and Bran had spoken to one another, the young warlock’s relationship with his patron had changed considerably when he found out that his mysterious patron was Aurion; a celestial with a complicated history of service to Paladine. This all explained the surprised look on Bran’s face when a healing warmth coursed through Luca hands and began to rapidly mend broken bones and knit together cuts and tears.

The heroes made it to the night master’s room just in time to see him plunge into the dark portal behind his desk carrying an armful of rapidly gathered items. He had plundered the drawers of his desk in haste, as if he had been looking for something specific. It was quickly decided that Emrys would go through the portal last; the heroes were keenly aware of the strange, disruptive effect the sorcerer had portals. The custodian became very uneasy as he watched the heroes go through one by one. James convinced him that he would not want to risk his life at the hands of the skaven and he reluctantly went through the portal.

When the darkness receded, the heroes found themselves, together with Hamish, Brandomiir, Jan and the dragonling, in a very large, cavernous space. The room was circular, with a ceiling so high overhead that it could not be seen by torch or lantern, even by those in the group whose vision was aided by their heritageor the enhancements of the Arms of the Senhadrim. The floor was tiled and the curved wall was decorated with very detailed relief sculptures of armies of winged warriors fighting a crawling chaos. In eight alcoves, evenly spaced along the wall, stood metal pillars which each held a softly glowing crystal.

In the middle of the chamber there was a circular shaft leading straight down, large enough for two dozen people standing shoulder to shoulder. Shining a torch into its depths revealed that the walls were tiled and decorated with more relief sculptures. James used small metal ball bearings to gauge the depth of the shaft, but it was so deep that he couldn’t make an accurate estimate. He did find, however, that there were sculptures of large faces of winged warriors set into the walls. The first of these was about fifty feet down from the top of the hole, and they were large enough that James was confident that he could climb down and stand on the top of the head. When he did so, he also found that the deeper he went into the shaft, the more the walls of the shaft became covered with fleshy slugs, each slowly crawling towards the top.

While the heroes were discussing how to proceed, Xarrombus took control of Hamish and told the heroes that it would let them leave, but that it would never relinquish Hamish back to them. Immediately, the heroes started to hear the same impassive voice itching in the back of their minds, filling their thoughts with intrusive thoughts which undermined their confidence. Most of the heroes were able to shake off the negative effects of what the voice was telling them, but Emrys fell victim to it and felt overwhelmed by melancholy.

James used the rope with which he had been exploring the hole in the ground to immediately bind Hamish’s hands and feet together and put a blind on him. At the same time, Luca attempted to restore Emrys’ confidence by channelling the power of his patron, but unfortunately it had no positive effect.

Luca suggested reaching out to Réonan using the ring that the heroes were given. He wanted to ask whether they would know of a way out of the vault, but James argued that if they were going to attempt to save Kingsport, they would have to go down the shaft and confront Xarrombus.

All of them were fatigued and despite being underground they all realised that the hour was growing late. Quentin took Róisín out of its flowering scabbard, sat down and started sharpening the blade with a whetstone. The sword, meanwhile, hummed the melancholic tune that Quentin had heard Ser Estienne d’Epines play.

After some rest, Emrys seemed to recover from his deep melancholy. The dark voices were still whispering troubling things to the heroes, but each of them had found a way to keep the despondency at bay.

Sixth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

The heroes decided to contact Réonan and ask for assistance. The ring allowed for a limited message to be passed between it and the grand archmage of the Circle of Mages. This lead to several messages going back and forth in which Réonan suggested that the teleportation circle could be used after the vault guardian was defeated. Confused, the heroes soon learned that the series of pillars and crystals were part of the teleportation circle, and could be used to travel to another vault.

Réonan also said they would organise a rescue, but needed to know where the heroes were and how they got there. The heroes responded by saying that they went in through the night master’s portal which collapsed behind them and that they would continue forward and confront the vault guardian.

Stumbling Upon Conflict

Previously, the heroes descended into the ancient waterways, found and infiltrated the headquarters of the night master, and then proceeded to explore the place. Besides many rogues, all going about their business, the heroes managed to find the night master himself, watching over Hamish. When Luca’s first attempt to translocate Hamish back to the surface failed, the heroes found themselves in a confrontation with the night master, a dozen rogues, and a pair of aberrant lords who had been hidden inside the walls.

Fifth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waning)

There heroes were scatter all over the underground headquarters of the night master. Quentin and Emrys were nearby one another, at the chambers of the night master himself. They had just seen Luca run in and translocate away with Hamish, but they had no idea where to. Quentin was being confronted by two aberrant lords while Emrys was fending off two rogues.

Meanwhile, Astrid and James were fighting off several rogues, back-to-back, in the lobby of the headquarters. While Astrid was bloodied up from having taken on several rogues, she was holding her own by the time that James came to relieve her.

Unbeknownst to any of the others, Luca had translocated to just outside of the entrance of the headquarters. Hamish was still blank faced and unresponsive. Even after slapping him in his face, the young mage would not acknowledge Luca or respond in any way. Luca had seen him in the same state at the orphanage in Grimsdown, but he had been wearing a grotesque crown of flesh at the time. Now it appeared as if something else was amiss, despite Hamish showing bruising and scarring where the crown had previously sat.

Quentin faced off against the two aberrant lords and was immediately assailed by a force that clouded his mind like a wave of hot air. Inspired by Luca’s willingness to charge into the room to save his friend, Quentin shrugged off the evil manipulations by the aberrations and stayed on course. He moved closer to Emrys, eager to lend the sorcerer aid against the rogues who were frustrating him. As the knight did so, one of the aberrant lords lunged at him and latched onto him with those dreadful tentacles. Barbs on the inside of the tentacles bit deep into any exposed skin, and the weight of the aberrant lord dragged Quentin down but despite that he managed to reach Emrys and aid in his defence. The other aberrant lord turned to the night master and engaged him.

While James was squaring off against Lunchbox, a brute of a rogue who had lunchboxes for hands, Luca stopped trying to get Hamish to respond and struggled to come up with a solution to bring his friend to safety without having to resort to leaving his companions behind. It was in that moment that Luca heard a strange sound coming from deeper into the ancient waterways. When concentrating on it, he could hear the distinct sound of rats in the distance. The skaven were coming for the rogues of the Steady Hand to settle the score for the battle the heroes had found earlier in the day. Luca touched the earring he wore and sent a message to warn James, who wore an identical earring, before taking Hamish and heading back inside the Steady Hand base.

Emrys and Quentin struggled to reunited with James and Astrid but eventually managed, though not without taking a few wounds. Emrys relied on his sorcery while Quentin relied on some the innate talents he discovered were awakened by the jaunt through the realm of the fey earlier that year. Emrys let loose an illusion that left the rogues and aberrant lords stunned and confused, and followed it up a devastating earthquake that damaged and collapsed part of the corridor behind him. Quentin outpaced the opposition by shrouding himself in mist and reappearing a long distance away.

It was clear that there were other rogues in the base that the heroes had not encountered yet. One of them, a dwarf with blonde hair poked his head out of one of the doors and negotiated safe passage for him and two others who had been wounded in the fight against the skaven. The other two were a man and a woman, while all three of them were wounded, the woman was especially bloodied up and had to be supported by the other two. The heroes let the three wounded rogues depart. Before departure, the blonde dwarf said that if the heroes were looking for the missing custodian, he could be found in the chamber at the end of the corridor he came out of. Quentin went in to investigate.

Astrid, who had darted down a different corridor in pursuit of two rogues, had reunited with the rest of the heroes, and it was at that point that a gruff, familiar voice called out; “Whoever is out there causing these fucks a headache, let me fight at your side, head to hip!” Some of the heroes guessed that this was Brandomiir’s voice. The last of the rogue opposition went down as eldritch bolts of purple energy shot from the crystal-tipped staff, and Luca felt the mounting pressure of Blackstar’s hunger subside. Temporarily.

Quentin took his lantern and explored the dark corridor that the three wounded rogues came out of. The corridor was lined with rooms on either side, one of which had an open door, revealing a bloody bed, likely where the rogues had tried to dress their wounds. At the rear of the corridor Quentin discovered a room where a custodian was gagged and bound to a chair while an aberrant lord stood over him, tentacles writhing nervously, while holding the tail end of a slug which was burrowing itself into the custodian’s eye.

Chaos in the Headquarters of the Night Master

Previously, the heroes descended into the ancient waterways in order to find the headquarters of the night master. They had found signs of combat between the rogues of the Steady Hand, the aberrant lords, and the insidious skaven. They managed to find the entrance to the headquarters and made their way inside, cloaked by Emrys’ veil of invisibility.

Fifth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waning)

The heroes were unsure on how to proceed. They were fairly confident that behind the closed door they had found, deep inside the guild headquarters, they would find the night master, and with him hopefully Hamish too. As they contemplated on their next steps, James heard the soft whimper of a woman echoing down the corridors. It was not coming from beyond the door, but from back towards the way they had come. Behind them James still saw the two rogues pouring over the map that the mercenary had left behind. He concentrated intently and could also heard a man grunting in pain and discomfort, though the sounds seemed disconnected.

When James shared what he had heard it seemed that something inside of Luca broke as he wondered whether it was Hamish that was being hurt. Luca’s voice rose in consternation and immediately James untethered himself from the rest of the group in an attempt to distance himself, afraid that Luca’s emotions would get them discovered by the rogues. Emrys, equally concerned by Luca’s increasingly unstable behaviour spoke to him and got him to focus on the task at hand; opening the door in front of them. “Either Astrid kicks it down, or I will burn it down,” Luca said, not easily placated by Emrys. Quentin, calling upon the powers of his new patron deity commanded Luca to calm himself, which worked. Once the panic was broken in Luca he found that it was easier to restrain himself.

Emrys found a keyhole in the door through which a bit of light shone. He knelt and peered through the hole and noticed that on the other side there were some people, at least two. One of them was pacing, while the other one was stationary, but it was unclear who the two might be. When James was asked to take a look at the lock in order to unlock it he found that after several, frustrating attempts that the door was already unlocked. Swiftly changing tactics he pretended like he managed to unlock it, making quite the show of it in order not to look foolish.

The heroes managed to open the door at a crack and peer inside, seeing a man standing at a desk and hearing him talk. Next to the desk stood Hamish, blank faced and impassive. Close to Hamish stood one of the strange, dog-sized, fleshy animals, ostensibly guarding the pacified Hamish. They tried to listen in on what the man the heroes assumed was the night master was saying:

David, I know our friendship has… cooled in recent years, but I still feel compelled to warn you that we have been infiltrated.

Whoever it is, they waited until this place was almost empty, which leads me to believe that we have been betrayed.

I have the mage and I will be taking him to the Upright Man. I can no longer protect him and I don’t trust the tentacle-faced scum any further than I can throw them. I know there will be consequences.

The man in question was beyond his middle years, but tall and wiry, dressed in blue cotton trousers and a black and blue, striped doublet. His face was cold, with fair skin, dark brown hair, and a regal, aquiline nose. He wore an amulet on a silver chain around his neck. The amulet bore the crest of a raven, which some of the heroes recognised to be that of house Ravensbourne, to which the ward that they were underneath had gotten its name.

The heroes decided that it would wise to cause a distraction which would draw the attention of all the rogues in the headquarters, leaving the heroes to deal with the night master. It was decided that Astrid would be that distraction; she was the fastest and crazy enough to do it. She drew her swords and started running towards the entrance, dragging the tips of her swords along both walls, sending sparks flying.

It worked, and it drew the attention of all the rogues in the complex. The rogues in the opposite room who were pouring over the map were instantly alerted and started to head towards the entrance, following Astrid. The night master was startled and reached into a drawer of his desk to retrieve a conical statuette into which he placed a crystal. He turned around and faced the wall behind his desk. On two sides of that wall were statues that looked like gargoyles with their mouths agape. Into one of the mouths he inserted the statue and instantly the wall transformed into an black, oval void from which the light could not escape. A sound of an ever retreating wave emitted from the portal.

When the night master made a move towards his impassive friend, Luca could no longer contain himself and rushed in. He ran for Hamish and tried to teleport away. His first attempt failed as he did not pick the destination with care; the translocation spell required an unoccupied space as the target, which Luca could not secure. Temporarily dazed, Luca cursed himself for his stupidity, especially since he had lost the veil of invisibility in his attempt to rescue Hamish.

In that moment, the fleshy dog attempted to attack Luca, but was met with a hail of the night master’s personal items as Emrys used his kinetic magic. Both Emrys and Luca were now visible, and the rogues in the other room set their sights on Emrys. Quentin saw that the fleshy dog was still a threat and ran in to finish the dog with a swing of Róisín, also losing his invisibility in the process.

While Emrys was engaged with the two rogues, Luca made another attempt to translocate himself and Hamish away from the headquarters, but this time he chose a safer location; the entrance of the headquarters. While Luca and Hamish disappeared, Quentin was left with the night master and watched as two aberrant lords emerged from one of the walls of the chamber, as if they had been merged with the very stone of the ancient waterways themselves.

All the while, James had joined Astrid in the lobby of the headquarters, both engaged with the rogues at the entrance.