Tag: A Kingsport Homecoming

Meeting an Old Friend While Tracking Down an Enemy

Previously, the heroes each went about trying to find out more about the person who had duped James’ mother into an assassination attempt on the day master, an influential leader for the Steady Hand, the guild that James was a member of. The person in question, Kalina, was a Silesian, just like James’ mother, and a successful horse thief. Each of the heroes did their best to find out about her whereabouts before the patience of the day master ran out and James’ mother would have to pay for her actions with her life.

Second Day, First Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

After having visited different acquaintances in Kingsport to find out more about Kalina, the heroes came back to the Careless Wanderer, unsure on how to proceed. In a moment of kindness, albeit one inspired by the desire for some privacy, Luca decided that the group should gather at one of the tables outside of the inn. The benches and table were still moist from previous night’s storm, but it would be away from the angling visitors and it would allow Astrid to sit under the open sky; something Luca knew she preferred.

After Durham brought cups of mulled wine filled with spices and berries, the conversation turned to how Kalina’s jewelled dagger got to be in Jeanne’s possession if Kalina had lost it in a game of dice. James had verified that the dagger with which his mother had attacked the day master was indeed the spitting image of his own; a dagger he had started wearing out of sight ever since it caused such a problem in Blackbridge. The possibility was raised that Kalina had made a big spectacle out of losing the dagger so that she could deny having given it to Jeanne.

Not being familiar with the situation in Kingsport, Quentin wondered aloud who might benefit from the day master’s death. James mused that it was likely a great number of people and groups that could benefit from destabilising existing power structures, and immediately the question was raised whether the illness of the queen might be tied to the attempt on the day master’s life. The queen fell ill about a ride ago; around the same time as Jeanne’s failed assassination attempt. Was someone trying to sow chaos in both the upper- and under-classes of Kingsport society?

The conversation fell flat and it was at that time that James discovered that an elderly, veiled woman was observing the group through a window from the inside of the inn. He let Luca know, using the Lauriel’s Earing of Whispers, which both of them still wore an equal part of. Despite that, it was Emrys who made a move to go inside, order more drinks and approach the woman, asking if she would be interested in joining the group.

Magda, for that was her name, was delighted and join the heroes at the table outside. She was the owner of the Careless Wanderer and despite her being blind and wearing a blindfold underneath her veil said that she had observed that each one of the heroes was touched by the seidhe and that she herself had been exposed to the fey in her younger years. Overall, she had fond memories of those times, but she did give the heroes a casual warning that the customs, expectations and etiquette of the realm of the seidhe were curious and that it was easy to run afoul of them.

James decided he would look for Wojciech, the Silesian stable master at the Careless Wanderer he understood to have regularly met his mother and Kalina at the bend in the river outside the Brown Gate. He found the man tending to the horses at the stables behind the inn. He introduced himself to Wojciech and explained he was looking for Kalina. Wojciech told James many of the same things that Mirek had also shared with him; Kalina had an unpleasant temperament and that he would occasionally meet her together with other Silesians. He could also tell James that he had tended to her horse only half a ride ago and that she was on her way out of Kingsport. When James confirmed that he knew about Kalina’s occupation as a horse rustler, Wojciech told him that recently she had run afoul of the House Courtenay guards around the Powderham estate. He heard they had been seen at the ruins of the Scatterfoot farm near the Avondale woods.

The next stop for the heroes was The Hoxton, the well known tavern at the bottom of the Serrated Street in the middle of Lewisham. As they made their way there, they crossed over Steward Square and saw a familiar face proselytising in front of an audience of two dozen people; Prementhine Shakeslock. He was once again warning people of the danger of corruption and doom spread by warlocks and those that consort with demons. He was wearing a red tabard, and was surrounded by several people dressed in red robes. He also referred to himself as “Brother Prementhine” and said that he would demand the Circle of Mages submit themselves to an inquisition to weed out corruption and hand over dangerous artifacts.

The heroes didn’t linger and made their way to The Hoxton. They found the taproom crowded and the second floor balconies filled with people of all ilk. Several tables held card and dice games with people gambling on the outcome. After some investigations, a gambler by the name of Edna, an older woman with crooked fingers filled with silver rings, recounted the story of Kalina’s demon dice game against a dwarf called Bran who lived in a shack in the Grimsdown ward. Kalina had lost her dagger and had to be tossed out of The Hoxton by Lenny, the proprietor of the establishment and the Kingsport bare-knuckle boxing champion.

On the way back to the Careless Wanderer the heroes crossed Steward Square again and saw that the crowd listening to Brother Prementhine had swelled even further. The heroes decided to play a prank and simultaneously try to get the crowd to disperse by displaying a little magic and making the area smell of rotten eggs. Luca was the one who came up with the idea, but he couldn’t make it work without being noticed, but Emrys, with a wealth of stage trickery had learned how to hide his sorcery and picked up where Luca’s idea left off. It was a small success and they managed to divert some of the crowd due to the bad smell that they conjured up.

When they got back to the inn, the heroes came to the conclusion that with dwarves being a rare sight in Kingsport it might be worth talking to Durham about where Bran was staying in Grimsdown. As luck would have it, the two were acquainted and he could give directions to his shack. But before their visit to Grimsdown, Luca decided that it was high time he visted Eustace the gemcutter and get his Lyrium crystal back. Quentin decided to join him.

The pair made their way to the Southside ward and quickly found Eustace’s little workshop. Upon entering the portly man set down his tools and took off the strange spectacles he wore while working and upon recognising Luca his face turned frightful. He began apologising profusely and explained that in Luca’s long absence the custodian from the Circle of Mages had been by as he often does to purchase materials for the college. He had also bought the crystal and paid 45 gold crowns for it. Luca quickly turned the disappointment into an opportunity to acquire more pearls for his divination spells. The pearl that Luca wanted was worth over 100 crowns and the gemcutter would not be browbeaten into giving that much of a discount, so Quentin put down a writ to cover the remaining value that Eustace could recover at the Sheridan Trading Company. The gemcutter relented and a deal was struck.

On the way back to the Careless Wanderer Luca decided to explain in detail just how valuable the Lyrium crystals were and why it was important that they recover the crystal which now was in the possession of the Circle of Mages.

Eventually, the heroes walked to Grimsdown, the unremarkable ward in the north-east of Kingsport known only for the falconry set up in the shadows of the Bastion of Restraint and the falconers who took their birds onto the bastion in order to train them. When the arrived in the right area James once again showed how effective an agent he was inside the city by paying a group of street urchins a silver piece to let them know which shack was the dwarf’s. A few knocks on a warped wooden door and they stood face to face with Brandomiir; the mohawked, foul-mouthed rogue who was in the employ of the Sheridans and helped the heroes free the Kaedwyni orcs.

He was happy to see the heroes and invited them into his small abode. He had been at work at the Sheridan estate, not just to restore the water supply, but later also to explore and secure the underground catacombs that the Sheridan were looking to exploit. He left the employ as soon as he was able, since Hallis, the captain of the Sheridan house guards, never trusted the dwarf after she suspected his involvement in the orc escape. He took his coin and acquired the shack in order to ride out the winter. The various tools around the shack showed that he was in the process of fixing it up. Quentin also noticed a rare arquebus hanging above the mantle in the shack.

When the conversation turned to Kalina and her dagger, he recounted the story on how he won it from her in a game of demon dice. When James asked if he still had the dagger he produced it from a chest and said that he had not found anyone to sell it to. After a bit of haggling Bran agreed to sell the dagger for the small fortune of 350 gold crowns, which Bran claimed would cover the cost of the individual gemstones and craftsmanship. He seemed happy with the trade. After the sale, the group stayed on a little longer to talk and reminisce about the orcs, after which the heroes departed back to the Careless Wanderer.

Kingsport Carceratum, Point of Interest, Steward Square, Kingsport

Deep beneath Steward Square lies the infamous Carceratum a place where Kingsport’s prisoners get locked away upon order of the magistrates or the Steward of Kingsport. Most people who get sentenced for small crimes either get lashed or are forced into temporary labour in the limestone quarries nearby the city. Those people who commit more serious crimes get sent to the Carceratum.

Originally the Careratum was a part of the ancient waterways underneath Kingsport but has since been sectioned off and drained. It is said to have multiple levels, but it is hard to find anyone that, when pressed, seems to know just how many. What everyone can agree upon is that they are dark, wet and very unpleasant. And that the lower they bring you, the worse your time in the Carceratum is going to be. The lower levels are reserved for the worst criminals that Kingsport has seen.

Claims of torture have always been denied by Dame Miranda Ravensbourne, who, as Lady Commander of the Crownsguard, is responsible for what happens in the Carceratum.

On the Silesian Trail

Previously, the heroes found themselves in Kingsport and where James’ mother Jeanne had been tricked into an assassination attempt on the day master, a powerful member of the Steady Hand, the Kingsport guild of thieves. James was tasked to find out why his mother had done what she did if he had any hope of saving her life.

As the heroes secured one of the last remaining rooms at the crowded Careless Wanderer, some people came to visit with some requests. Dame Miranda was concerned with the invasion of orcs in the north-west, asking Quentin to investigate on his way back to Beauclair, while Lady Annabella approached Emrys with a request to help her with a young lord who had been bothering her as she had been asked to officiate the annual royal angling competition.

And last, Luca was visited by his otherworldly patron in the middle of the night. His patron congratulated Luca with Atilesceon’s defeat and reminded him that the goal was to find the Mad God. He was promised the answer to one question, and he chose to learn that his patron’s name was Aurion.

Second Day, First Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

Luca was the first one to wake up, hearing the muffled chatter of different guests at the inn getting ready for breakfast downstairs. He decided to head downstairs make sure that breakfast was arranged for everyone before Ramsey ran out of food.

The topic of James’ predicament came up again, and it was decided that it would be best to prioritise the safety of Jeanne over any other requests that the heroes had received since arriving back at Kingsport. Quentin made an elaborate vow to stand by James and his mother, which went to illustrate the different worlds the two men had been raised in.

A recurring question was how Jeanne had gotten a hold of a jewelled dagger, much like the one that James was carrying, and who had provided it to her. James explained that it was a woman that his mother had befriended, a fellow Silesian by the name of Kalina, who was also a member of the guild James belonged to.

As Durham brought a cart of food up to the room and Astrid finally could be arsed to raise her head up from her pillow, the conversation turned to finding out more information about Kalina. James and Emrys would visit one of James’ childhood friends who was also affiliated with the guild, while Luca and Astrid would visit The Ship’s Head, a bar in The Salt where Luca was familiar with a gossip of a bartender named Coraline who might know a few things.

Quentin was a stranger in the city and therefore could not tap into any of his connections to find out more about this Kalina, and so he decided to go and talk to the representative of the Sheridan Trading Company in order to take care of a few personal matters.

After breakfast James and Emrys headed towards Chiselton, the western part of the Northside ward where Dick, James’ childhood friend and fellow guild member, lived in a loft above a small establishment that cooked food for the workers in that area. They found the kitchen was open, with two cooks slaving away while the two heroes made their way up to the loft, which they found locked.

Upon investigation, James found that the lock was trapped with a small needle, which he disabled. He easily opened the lock to find that Dick had likely not been there for a few days. One of the cooks managed to confirm that he had been absent, and that before his departure Dick had been practising horseback riding.

In the meantime, Luca and Astrid made their way to the Ship’s Head where the found more anglers getting together to prepare for the upcoming competition. The weathered bar was dark and already full of people drinking from mugs of foamy beer. The two heroes took a seat at the bar and patiently waited for the red-headed bartender to notice them.

Coraline was a woman with a sharp tongue and an eagerness for news and gossip. Luca asked her whether she knew a Silesian woman by the name of Kalina and if there was anything Coraline could share about her. Coraline said she wanted to trade information, and Luca ended up telling her about a representative of House Blackwood bullying the handmaid to the queen in order to get an advantage on the other competitors in the annual angling competition.

Coraline seemed satisfied with the payment and shared that Kalina was a dangerous person consorting with dangerous people, stealing cattle and horses. Another thing she had heard was that Kalina had lost an expensive, bejewelled dagger in a game of demon dice at The Hoxton when she ran out of coin a few rides ago.

Quentin’s first stop was the Library of Ioun in Ravensbourne, which he found to be closed. A well-heeled gentleman informed him that Lord Caedmon Bromley held services every last day of each ride and that the library was open to the public then. Quentin decided to make his way to the office of the Sheridan Trading Company in the hopes of getting some help in his endeavour.

When Quentin arrived at the small office in the western part of the docks he found a soberly dressed, well-groomed man in his middle years named Caius of Lynnecombe who surprised Quentin by being fluent in Beauclairois. They spoke about Quentin’s stay at the Careless Wanderer and his desire to gain access to the library. Caius promised to pay for Quentin’s stay in the inn, and wrote him a letter of recommendation in order to gain access to the library, to be handed to the librarian, a man named Raedelus.

The conversation turned to Lord Gabriel Valois-Antille, the Steward of Kingsport. Quentin learned that the Lord Steward was Beauclairois, from a small house in the eastern part of his homeland who had married into the royal family. He also learned that the Lord Steward had been rubbing many of the noble houses the wrong way and that it was causing some political unrest.

When the conversation came to an end, Quentin walked back to the Careless Wanderer, bumping into Luca and Astrid on their return from The Ship’s Head.

Emrys and James walked from Chiselton to The Bridle, an area of the Northside ward dedicated to the Kingsport Manège, a market dedicated to buying and selling cattle and mounts. There they hoped to bump into Silesians, who were well known to be valued for their knowledge of horses and mounts.

They struck up a conversation with a jovial, mustachioed Silesian named Mirek, a horse trader who did a lot of business at the Manège. Quickly it was revealed that he knew both Jeanne and Kalina. Mirek knew James’ mother close enough to have heard of James and seemed genuinely pleased to meet him.

Mirek explained that he met Jeanne and Kalina on one of the regular get-togethers that they held with other Silesians, on the fields in the river bend outside the Brown Gate. Silesians would regularly spend time together to speak in their native tongue, share a drink and tales of their home. As he lead the two heroes out to the field, he described Kalina as a tall, strong woman with a pointed nose and brown, half long hair. Kalina didn’t always make it to the gatherings, but Jeanne was a regular attendee.

Mirek never liked Kalina much, describing her as a gambling junkie with a vicious streak. He also described the jewelled dagger she owned. He didn’t know where Kalina was, but offered to find out more, seemingly genuinely concerned with Jeanne’s well-being. When he asked James where he could find him, he suggested talking to Wojciech, the stable hand at the Careless Wanderer, who also occasionally attended the meetings.

A Kingsport Homecoming

Previously, the heroes brought Lord Destan back to Kingsport, escorted by a group of once doomed crusaders. Upon their return, they were greeted by a city familiar, yet changed. Prior Benedict was hailed as a saint by the followers of Paladine. Dame Josephine was not received well at court, where a regent now spoke for the queen while she was afflicted by illness. And James found that much has happened to his guild in his absence and his mother was in danger.

First Day, First Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

James quickly made his way through the darkening streets of Kingsport after having visited the Silver Cross and speaking to Samuel. The long time bartender of the establishment he used to call home told him that his mother had been held captive by the daymaster, one of the two leaders of his guild.

He caught up with the rest of the heroes as they had just reached the Careless Wanderer. The tavern room of the inn was completely filled with visitors and it was warm inside, despite the weather turning colder. They made their way to the bar and found Durham tending the bar, happy to see their faces.

There were no tables available for them, so the dwarf arranged for some stools and allowed them to take sanctuary from the crowd behind the bar. Quentin was introduced and quickly fell into a conversation about the different wines that the Wanderer had in stock.

Lauryn, the elven counter to Durham came to say hello and talks Emrys into performing later that evening. She also arranges for some food with Ramsey, the chef. She explains to the heroes that the tavern is so crowded due to the upcoming Royal Master Angler competition organised by the Kingsport Anglers Association, an annual competition backed by the crown. Besides a hefty sum of gold crowns to the first, second and third place, it also comes with a lot of prestige. Looking across the room, the heroes notice that there’s quite a few fishing poles secured against the wall.

After having finished their food, James asks Luca to have a walk through the streets of Kingsport with him. James explained a few things about the guild he was involved with and that he needed to speak to one of his associates and that it could potentially get ugly. He asked if Luca was willing to stay close by, using Lauriel’s Earrings of Whispers to stay in touch with one another. Luca agreed and the two made their way to the Southside ward.

There Luca entered L’eau Célestes, a shop run by a radiant woman selling wines. She had organised a tasting for a group of people who all were people of varying levels of importance and they welcomed Luca with open arms. He pretended to be a young mage in Kingsport for study, something which none in attendance took into question.

In the meantime, James entered the butcher shop a little further down the street. There he found out that the daymaster knew of his arrival back in Kingsport and was somewhat surprised to see him. The man was grievously injured, judging by the way way in which he grimaced as he moved and the bandages on his torso. He was also surrounded by more guards than usually; all of them cold eyes and fast knives.

The daymaster asked him if he came to finish what his mother started. Genuinely surprised, James claimed not to know what his guild master was talking about. He seemed to have struck the right chord and the daymaster explained that he had regularly enjoyed his mother’s services over the last few months, and that during James’ absence she had tried to assassinate him while in bed together.

Since then, he had her bound and locked up, trying to force her to reveal why she had tried to kill him. Her mother had so far withstood all interrogation. The daymaster claimed he had not allowed for James’ mother to come to real harm yet, but that his patience was running out. He claimed that she came at him with a jewelled dagger just like the one that James was carrying, a dagger he knew to have belonged to a lieutenant working for his guild rival; the nightmaster, a man by the name of John Sharpe. The lieutenant was a Silesian, just like James’ mother, by the name of Kalina.

James convinced the daymaster to allow him to see his mother and talk to her. He wanted to see what state she was in and perhaps he could learn the reason why she had made an attempt on the daymaster’s life. He was brought down to the basement of the butcher’s shop, where found that his mother had been bound to a chair. She was in a bad state, mostly due to neglect. He took the gag off her face and loosened the binds and spoke with her.

He learned that she had been convinced that the butcher had sent James to his death and became enraged. A friend she had met through a group of Silesians who regularly met up in Kingsport had given her a knife to use. The butcher seemed satisfied with what he heard and ordered Jeanne to be bound up again. He charged James with finding out what the truth behind the situation was. He was especially concerned with the nightmaster coming after him. James offered information on the strange cult the heroes had learned about who were causing chaos in Fairfields and in the Riverlands and said that the same might be happening here.

James parted with the books he had retrieved and a fair some of gold crowns he had earned so far and he was allowed to hold on to the magical bag for the time being. He dreaded leaving his mother behind, but his best bet was to uncover the truth behind his mother’s attempt on the daymaster’s life.

In the meantime, back in the Careless Wanderer, Astrid spent her evening enjoying the comforts of the inn and arm wrestling some of the tough men in the tavern. Quentin had Durham open a good bottle of wine from Beauclair and engaged in a chat with a countryman named Remy who had come to Kingsport to hire himself out to a team participating in the angling competition.

Emrys was getting acquainted with people in the tavern and was trying to find out what the rumours are around the arrival of the crusaders; their arrival did not go unnoticed but was mistaken for the arrival of a group of Lyrian knights, likely arriving to offer their protection to the queen. The knights had previously protected the queen during the Courtenay rebellion when she was only twelve years old. Emrys also learned that it is widely believed that the queen’s illness is one caused by black magic and that most people in the capital believe the accusations made against the Farcorner rebels.

When Emrys graced the tavern with a performance, Dame Miranda and Lady Annabella entered the Careless Wanderer, both “out of uniform” and dressed as inconspicuously as they could. Lady Annabella admired Emrys while he played, while Dame Miranda approached Quentin and asked him if he could accompany her for a walk.

Dame Miranda took a stroll together with Quentin toward Steward Square. She spoke about her family, House Ravensbourne, and their wardenship of the Tiverton Glades. She explained that a host of invading orcs were making their way across the border from the Daerlan Empire and heading south-east, through the Elder Foothills to the Tiverton Glades but that the Lord Steward wasn’t committing any forces to stop the invasion, instead relying on the noble houses to provide aid. The noble houses were weary of the Lord Steward and she believed that perhaps aid might be too late to arrive. She hoped that Quentin could investigate the rumour that the orcs had been sent across the border by the Daerlanians, since that might help in getting both the Lord Steward as well as the noble houses to act more swiftly.

The two arrived in front of the Cathedral of the Platinum Father on Steward Square and Dame Miranda invited Quentin inside. He hesitated, saying that he was not a man of god, but followed the knight in. He asked her why she had chosen to talk to him about this particular problem. She said that she had hoped that if he were to return to Beauclair he could travel past the Tiverton Glades. She also said that he came highly recommended. When Quentin asked by who, she motioned to a gathering of followers of Paladine surrounding Prior Benedict in reverence. Quentin asked whether he could give her a reply in the morning, something the Lady Commander of the Crownsguard understood and accepted.

After James and Luca found one another and made their way back to the Careless Wanderer, James explained everything about the situation he and his mother found themselves in to Luca. As their cross the Lyn at the Queensbridge they found crier Goodman, the portly man who was a well known figure in the city, helping the Crownsguard light the braziers along the bridge for the night. James knew him to be a good source of news, and also, for the right coin, a source of gossip and rumours.

The crier explained that the Lord Steward had takenn direct control of the Crownsguard, drawing the ire of House Ravensbourne for by-passing Dame Miranda, claiming it was an overreach of power. He also could tell James and Luca that  the fetish that was found in the queen’s bedchambers was a tarred head of a goat with nails driven into its eyes and that it was sent to the Circle of Diviners for study. A man by the name of Callum the Diviner had been sent for from Blackbridge. Also, a host of over five thousand orcs was threatening the Elder Foothills and Tiverton Glades, while at the same time the markets in White Fork, south of the Fields of Strife had been flooded by cheaper goods from Daerlan and that the Daerlan florin was now the coin of choice throughout the area. And that Madam Brecourt had “stopped shopping for meat on Fleet Street” over an ongoing dispute with the butcher, something the crier said James probably knew all about.

Back in the Careless Wanderer, Lady Annabella came to speak with Emrys after his performance had concluded. The exchanged pleasantries and chatted a little until Lady Annabella explained that she had been asked to fulfil the queen’s duties for the annual Royal Master Angler Competition, something that was a great honour to her and her family. She found that she had stepped into a viper’s nest of competing teams backed by ambitious nobility with a vicious drive to win, who would not stop at anything to gain the upper hand.

One such noble, an arrogant young man by the name of Lord Peregrine Blackwell, had approached her with the intention of convincing her to release the information on the catches, the fish who were the target of each competition, to him. Each year the catches were kept a close secret until the day of the start of the competition, to not give any team a head start or a competitive advantage. He seemed so insistent that Lady Annabella asked Emrys if he’d be interested in deceiving the young lord.

While Emrys didn’t know the young Peregrine himself, he was very well acquainted with house Blackwell, and partly the reason why he had moved from the Riverlands to Kingsport.

The inn became quieter as the night progressed and arrangements were made in the tavern room to accommodate the many visitors who had been unable to secure a night to sleep. Cots, bedrolls and sleeping bags were put all over the floor and slowly people retired for the night. The heroes had arranged for the last of the rooms to be assigned to them, and they were able to squeeze in together. Before everyone settled in, James asked everyone for their help with his predicament. He was certain that it should rise to the top of the list of priorities, even before leaving the city to retrieve their well-earned reward from house Sheridan.

Second Day, First Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

People fell asleep as Luca sat in a comfortable chair, reading by the dim light of a candle. He startled awake at the sound of a storm raging outside. He looked around only to find that his companions were nowhere to be found. He went downstairs only to find the same; an empty tavern room.

Eventually he stepped out into the stormy night and went to the river. He walked downstream, up the hill towards the Bastion of Illumination which was standing vigil atop Quayhill. Not a soul in sight. He used Blackstar to detect any life around him, but he could detect none. He concluded that it must be a dream and used a dagger to make a mark in one of the limestones of a nearby building. Tomorrow he would check to see if the mark was there.

He walked upriver, back toward the Careless Wanderer and passed the House of the Raven Queen. Nobody to be seen. Then he walked towards Steward Square, and there, in front of the Cathedral of the Platinum Father, standing on the steps before the great carved doors, stood his master in all their grotesque glory.

Luca approached and his master congratulated him on a successful mission into the Crimson Tower. They reminded Luca that the goal had always been and will always be to get closer to Tharizdun and to find where the Mad God slumbered.

In return, Luca was to receive his reward; one question, answered truthfully. “What is your name?” Luca asked with great hesitation. “Oh Luca, so predictable. I have many names. But I suppose my name now is Aurion.”

Aurion bade Luca a farewell, turned around and opened the double doors to the cathedral, emanating a radiant, silver light. When the doors had closed behind Aurion, Luca returned to the Careless Wanderer, dissatisfied. He sat back down in his chair and fell asleep.

A Swift Return to Kingsport

Previously, the heroes had settled the crusaders in a make-shift camp at the abandoned village off the eastern shore of Lake Llygad as the inhabitants of Pinefall were preparing to celebrate Highharvestide. Plans were made to have the griffon riders fly the heroes bback to Kingsport so that they could present the crusader leadership to court.

Highharvestide, 1262

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

While Emrys, Emma and Luca had returned back to the camp at the abandoned village, Astrid, James and Quentin stayed behind in Bristlecone to make sure that none of the crusaders would return to cause any more trouble. Whether it was the Darkmoon standing in high sanction in the sky, or the darkness that some of the crusaders were marked by, the heroes were not sure if the villagers of Bristlecone would be safe that night.

They were offered blankets and a place at the fire in the came of the visitors from Hunter’s Hollar, but despite that hospitality, the night was a long and uncomfortable one.

First Day, First Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

After a restless but uneventful night, Astrid, James and Quentin awaken underneath blankets heavy with dew. The visitors from Hunter’s Hollar were slowly waking up and getting ready to head back to their settlement in the forest. Goodbyes were exchanged quietly and without much fanfare or ceremony and the heroes walked back to the camp at the abandoned village in the early light of the morning.

Back at the crusader camp people are getting up at a much slower pace. It is the first morning they’ve spent outside of Atilesceon’s hellish realm for countless years and they were taking a moment to let it sink in that this suffering had come to an end.

Luca decided to bring Dame Victoria some breakfast. He found her in her bedroll quietly laying on her side with her eyes open. Not crying, but just laying still. When he offered her the food she gave him the briefest smile. They sat together, quietly eating.

When the others returned to camp they decided to get breakfast. Quentin made it a point to greet Dame Josephine, but as always she was preoccupied with talking to her squires and only had time to give him a small acknowledgement. She was cold and distant. He decided to talk to Dalinda instead, asking her if the griffon riders would be ready to depart soon, to which the designated translator responded that it would take another hour before departure.

Quentin decided to take the time to talk to Emrys about the possibility of using magic to disguise his sword. The scabbard was constantly sprouting thorny vines with roses on them and a simple blanket was not enough to stop that from showing, and so he was hoping Emrys could help out. Unfortunately, Emrys only had so many tools in his belt and it wouldn’t be enough to help Quentin. Overhearing this conversation, James suggested that perhaps it was the fact that Quentin held the sword that made it bloom and to try letting someone else carry to sword back to Kingsport to see if that made a difference. He suggested Emma, someone that most people in the party trusted.

First, however, Quentin asked Luca if he could use his magic to find out more information about the properties of the sword. Luca still had one of the required components that were necessary for the ritual, a pearl, and went ahead with it. He found out that the sword’s name was Róisín, and that it bestowed the wielder with wondrous abilities, provided the wielder was willing to bond with the weapon, committing to it, at least temporarily. Quentin had a lot to think about.

In the meantime, villagers from Bristlecone had come to see Lord Destan off, bringing with them a cart of his possessions, as well as the possessions of the heroes that they left behind at the Rudwick barton when they left for the Crimson Tower. They also brought gifts and well-wishings for Destan to take back to his lord father. Destan once again strained to play the good lord.

One of the people to join the well-wishers was Coranthe, mother to the witless Robart. She had brought her grandchildren Loke and Millie with her to bid the good lord farewell. While James was contemplating all of the belongings that the heroes had been carrying around in the chest that the Sheridans had provided to them upon departure from Lynnecombe, Millie came up to the group and proclaimed that she had found the perfect name for their company.

Months before, when the heroes had arrived in Pinefall and had made Millie’s acquaintance, she claimed that every company should have a name, and she vowed that she would think of a suitable name for them. “The Heroes of the White Eye,” she claimed. She had been told what the heroes had done, and the part that her father had played in it. Lake Llygad, once called Lake Gwenllygad, or Lake of the White Eye as it was known in the elder tongue of the elves, had been liberated by the heroes, and so the name of their company should recognise that fact.

James thanked her very much for the suggestions and proceeded to unload all of the belongings from the chest into his magical bag. He then gifted the young Millie with a gold crown, which she promptly took to her brother Loke in order to make him jealous.

It was time to depart. The griffons had been saddled with a double-saddle and special bags that would allow them to carry some food with them. Everyone found their rider and the birds made their way to the field where months before the heroes had met the Szygani group. They mounted the enormous monstrosities and took off.

When the wings start beating on either side of you, it kicks up pine needles from the ground, creating a pleasant scent in the crisp air. The birds quickly find lift and you are pushed into your saddle. It’s remarkable just how fast they take off, across the lake, making one last pass along the innocent looking, broken tower, before veering south.

Flying in a perfect v formation, Tourbillon at the front, the wind around you slowly warms up in the light of the rising sun. Your eyes quickly adjust to the rush and stop tearing up, allowing you to take a good look around you. You’re probably flying about 600 feet off the ground for most of the way, the tops of the trees rising and falling with the Silverpine hills below you.

Midway through the morning the landscape starts to change slowly; the hills become less rugged and the pine trees give way to the yellow, orange and red autumn colours of the deciduous trees of the Riverlands. The woods below you becomes thicker and neigh impenetrable at times. When the woods offer a peek, it is to reveal one of the countless little rivers, brooks and streams that give the Riverlands its name.

Occasionally you notice larger flying predators rise up from the trees and wisely turning their tail from the path of the flying monstrosities that are carrying you across the kingdom. At one point, you see two wyverns in the distance veer off to the north. Later, you notice a group of harpies who make their nests in the tops of the trees below you cower and flee at the sight of the griffons.

A little past noon, after having flown through a freezing rain storm, the riders signal to each other to prepare for landing. The griffons touch down close to a river that Luca estimates to be the Bray, which leads south, past Brayford, towards the Bourne. The griffons take their rest and feed off the food taken from Bristlecone. Everyone gets a chance to eat, rest and dry their clothing near a fire.

After about an hour, you once again take flight and start heading towards the south-west. The landscape becomes more hospitable and you can see farms, villages, fields and the occasional keep. Villagers and farmers stop their work and observe the strange formation of birds flying overhead. Some of them run for safety in their huts and hovels.

Soon after, you see a familiar cobbled road below you and the traffic starts to pick up. You have reached the Silesian Road. To your left you can spot the glint off the waves from the Lyrian gulf, with fishing vessels dotting the waves, sailing the day’s haul back to port. To your right you can see the fields of freshly harvested wheat, barley, oats and sorghum. The air is alive with the sounds seagulls coming from the south and the wind carries traces of dried hay which lies stacked in enormous round bales on cleared fields to the north.

Mid-afternoon you fly over a t-junction and you see the familiar Inn at the Crossroads. About an hour later you see Gheolgothis, the enormous tree that marks the Seat of Friendship. You keep following the coastline and soon after, you notice small plumes of smoke coming off of the wood fires around Kingsport. You start to make out the city’s ramparts, you see the large lighthouse atop the Bastion of Illumination and splendour of the royal palace on Garamond hill.

When you get nearer, a group of griffon riders can be seen headed your way. For all who have stayed in Kingsport it is easy to recognise Dame Miranda Ravensbourne, the captain of the Crownsguard, sitting astride Frostfeather at the front of the formation. When the two groups meet, a brief flash of signals are exchanged between them, seemingly perfectly understood by the riders of both companies.

Dame Miranda turns Frostfeather around and both companies fall in line as she leads them away to a field just north of the city, across the river from the Corbray Gate, where both groups make for a landing. Once on the ground, the crusaders dismount their griffons and step forward. A small group of people have gathered in the field in preparation for their arrival.

Two among them are very familiar to you, Ser Benten the Purple, with his dark grey hair, and Lord Marcus with his red-brown hair. Both of them stand at an obscene 7 foot, sticking out above the Sheridan guards, Lyrian knights and Crownsguard accompanying them.

Besides Dame Miranda, the Crownguard and Lyrian knights that came to welcome the heroes back to Kingsport, there were three other people of note; lieutenant William of Eastwarren, the handsome head of the palace guard, Lady Annabella Waxley, the queen’s handmaiden and a man introduced as Ser Roderick Corbray, representative of the Order of the Lance in Kingsport.

The heroes took the time to explain the situation to Dame Miranda and Ser Roderick Corbray. Upon the realisation of Prior Benedict’s identity, Ser Roderick fell to his knees in front of the prior and made the sign of Paladine and muttered something about “saint Benedict”. This further deepened the understanding among some of the heroes of the implications of the crusaders’ return.

In the meantime, Lord Destan was reunited with his brother Marcus and their mentor Ser Benten. The brothers shared a tender moment together before the heroes joined them in conversation. It was the Sheridan’s intention to return to Lynnecombe and the heroes were invited to come up to the Sheridan estate to claim their reward.

The strange missive which had been sent to Falka at the Bournemouth academy while she was helping the heroes do research into the Crimson Tower and the Age of Fear was brought to Ser Benten’s attention. He explained that shortly after the heroes departed Kingsport the estate had seen a burglary and one of the things that was stolen was Lord John’s seal. This, Benten offered, could be an explanation for the letter, but he assured the heroes that the letter was not genuine.

Lady Annabella approached Emma and asked her if they could speak in private for a moment; an invitation Emma accepted. They turned away to walk together for a moment, but not before Annabella made eye contact with Emrys. Her glance gave him the impression that he would be seeing more of her in the near future. Lieutenant William followed at a discrete distance as they spoke together.

The heroes revealed to Dame Miranda and Ser Roderick that they wanted to get an audience with the queen in order to inform her of the situation. Dame Miranda explained that the queen had fallen ill and that Lord Gabriel Valois-Antille, the Steward of Kingsport had taken over the duties during her majesty’s absence. The heroes decided that an audience with the steward was in order and they agreed with Dame Miranda that their travel through Kingsport would best be done more subtly and so carriages were arranged for those attending the audience.

The griffon riders, with the exception of Dame Josephine, stayed behind with Ser Roderick and Dame Miranda’s knights in order to take care of the griffons, while the others joined the heroes in the carriages. James, eager to take in the sights, sounds and smells of his beloved city once again decided to ride up front of the coach instead. They passed through the Corbray gate, down the Corbray Street toward the Elysian Street toward Steward Square. They crossed Queensbridge and went up Garamond Hill along Palace Road to reach the palace gates.

Once inside the walls, the group were lead through the spectacular garden, making note that the flowers on the gate to the water gardens were fiercely blooming, possibly influenced by Bláthnaid, the spring blessed by Emma upon request of the queen, all those months ago. Lead into the palace, through elaborately decorated rooms with painted walls and polished, wooden floors until they were lead into a modest throne room and were confronted by a group of sycophantic courtiers surrounding the steward, who did not turn out to be as receptive to the message that the group was presenting.

The steward claimed that he had more important matters to be concerned about and he rattled off a couple of things that were occurring in the kingdom that the heroes had missed in the last couple of months. He charged House Sheridan with stewarding the crusaders, since they came to Lyria on their lands. He did not care about them as long as they paid the taxes that anyone in Lyria owed the crown.

And so, the heroes departed the palace. It was getting late and the Sheridans departed for Lynnecombe, the lyrian knights departed for Correntine where the knightly orders made their home, and the heroes went to the Careless Wanderer. All except James and Emma. Emma went to the Sacred Baths of Sedna, while James headed to the Silver Cross.

Arriving at the Silver Cross, he was greeted by Samuel, the bartender and custodian of the brothel who James had looked up to while growing up. While sharing a stiff drink at a distance from the other patrons in the establishment, he shared some troubling news; in James’ absence, the guild had gone through a war with the Sunken Knuckles that lead to the violent death of the Knuckles’ leader Lydia. It had cost the guild lives and territory that they were reclaiming now that the Knuckles were fighting over who got to take charge of the gang. In the meantime, James’ mother had held an appointment with the Day Master at his butcher shop on Fleet Street in the Southside Ward, as she did regularly. However, she never returned from this particular date. Several requests by Madam Valerie, the owner of the Silver Cross, were ignored and the madam stopped paying her dues in protest.

Troubling news, made all the worst by the fact that his attic room had been cleared out. Madam Valerie had asked Samuel to remove James’ belongings when it appeared that James might not be coming home. Samuel taken James’ belongings for safe keeping, but for now, James had to find a place to sleep elsewhere.