Previously, the heroes had managed to return from Dr. Arkenward’s sanctum where they had found the third Tablet of the Elemental Eye and met some curious figures that the doctor had kept as prisoners, most of which were from beyond the Seal of Divine Animus.
Tenth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262
(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)
Having left the Careless Wanderer before the others had woken up, Quentin made his way to the House of the Raven Queen. Entering through the large wooden doors he found that there were several people scattered among the pews of the cavernous, dark interior of the church. He approached one of the silent sisters and asked to speak to cardinal Roark.
I am a petitioner, bringing gifts. I seek audience from the Raven Queen, by the mouth of cardinal Roark.
– Quentin Morvrayne
Quentin found the cardinal near the altar where only days before he and his companions had brought Astrid back from the dead. Quentin explained to the cardinal that he felt attracted to the tenets of the Raven Queen as she seemed to govern the natural order between life and death, standing in stark opposition to the way in which fiends were willing to manipulate the souls of mortals.
I come with the morning, a blunt blade held by no hand. Twice I have been lost, far from home and far from my memories. I cannot be lost thrice into the unknown before I find my purpose and a hand to wield me. One too many times I have seen that which lies beyond the Veil, one too many times I have succumbed to the horror, one too many times I was too weak to stand as tall and as strong as I swore to myself to be. I come to beseech she who presides the threshold to be the one to make me her tool, her blade, her guardian. I bring the gift of my life for her to guide and dispose of, should I be weak, should I be untrue and unworthy, should I fail her.
– Quentin Morvrayne
Cardinal Roark recognised that Quentin was sincere and could be an ally and champion for the Raven Queen and invited him to swear the Oath of the Watchers and induct him into the Order of the Grave Knights. The silent sisters helped the cardinal get ready for the ceremony; spreading incense from large censers and supplying the cardinals with white and black face paint. The cardinal asked Quentin to bare his chest as he swore his oath.
Be vigilant. The threats you face are cunning, powerful, and subversive. Be ever alert for their corruption.
Be loyal. Never accept gifts or favours from fiends or those who consort with them. Stay true to your order, your comrades, and your duty.
Be disciplined. You are the shield against the endless terrors that lie beyond the stars. Your blade must be forever sharp and your mind keen to survive what lies beyond.
Accept death. Death comes to all eventually. Accept it, and you will find a place in the afterlife.
Let souls pass on. Every soul deserves its place in the afterlife. When you see a creature forced into undeath, or a soul forced into bondage, let its soul go free.
Annihilate the unholy. The undead and those who foster them are unholy and wicked. Destroy them before they defile more than they already have
Quentin repeated the words and swore the oath, and as he did so he felt a cold chill run along his bare skin. The goose bumps he felt drew his eyes and he saw that the bumps grew more pronounced until little filaments poked through his skin like fine hairs. They grew longer and thicker and turned into feathers, like that of a raven, covering his shoulders, and arms. To his surprised, as well as the surprise of cardinal Roark, Quentin found that his right arm was not covered with black feathers, but with stark white feathers. This did not stop Quentin, nor did it stop the cardinal, who, despite his surprise, leaned forward and plucked on of the dark feathers from Quentin’s shoulder and put it on a string and placed it around Quentin’s neck as the feathers on his body began to dissipate.
When the incense smoke had cleared Quentin saw that unlike during the resurrection of Astrid the worshippers in the church had been allowed to stay and be witness to Quentin’s oath. He walked out of the church an back into the cold weather and felt like some things had changed significantly for him.
When Quentin returned to the Careless Wanderer he rejoined his companions, who, in his absence, had been talking about how to proceed and what to do next. Wojciech entered the tavern room through the kitchen and came to tell the heroes that he had returned from the Sheridan estate with their horses, their cart, and the greetings from James’ mother. Due to a shortage of space at the stables of the inn he resorted to stabling the horses at The Bridle. The cost of that would be added to the cost of their rooms.
It was around that time that Lauryn came up to Quentin to tell him that another letter had arrived for him as she handed him a small piece of parchment sealed with blue wax showing the heraldry of house Morvrayne, the swan volant. Quentin read the letter to his friends at a whisper:
My dear son,
I have set off to Lyria, together with several guards. We ride alongside the retinue of house Lys and make camp together. They are travelling with over forty people, and every town and city we pass adds to that number. High lord Gauthier’s governs his estates and lands while on the road. Dozens of ravens are sent and received each day.
Rumours are going around the camp that the high lord’s only interest is retrieving his ancestral sword. Towards me he has mentioned that sword, but only that it would be a good asset to both our houses if the Age of Peace has come to an end. Regardless, lady Gwenaëlle’s hand should still be yours. A promise was made, a challenge was set, and you met that challenge. I am proud of you.
By the swan.
Lord Dorian of House Morvrayne
The heroes had pondered for a while what they were going to do next. The winter would soon be upon them and there were many things they considered undertaking. Luca’s friend Hamish was still missing, and there were some thoughts that he might be caught up in the dark delirium which had become quite popular during the city’s strict curfew. It was decided that the first stop, while there was still a bit of daylight available, was to visit the Circle of Magi and secure another audience with the head archmage, Réonan. They might be able to help the heroes in keeping the three tablets safe.
Before their departure, Emrys had continued to observe Astrid. She had been behaving more impulsively in the wake of her resurrection, and the young sorcerer came to the conclusion that perhaps her behaviour was informed by her ideas about the afterlife.
And just as the heroes departed the Careless Wanderer, two crownsguard, flanked by red custodians, came into the establishment to nail a notice to the inside of the door, calling for able-bodied people to join a newly created, royal army to march upon Farcorner and bring the rebel houses to heel. James noted that the notice said that the army would be loyal to the queen, rather than the throne, and he could not hide his cynicism in the wake up what the heroes had seen after reviving the young queen.
The city was cold and empty. The heroes wrapped their cloaks tightly as they stood in front of the Circle of Magi waiting for Olafur to open the door. They were invited inside and after they were tucked away in Olafur’s room adjacent to the lobby they were given a syrupy liquor the colour of honey to warm their bones. The Miðgarðurian was reluctant to disturb the head archmage but eventually relented. When he and Réonan returned, the head archmage asked Olafur to remain outside while they addressed the heroes.
Luca asked Réonan for the Circle’s help in protecting the tablets, but Réonan declined. However, they would consider whether they could think of other ways in which the Circle could help the heroes protect the tablets.
During the conversation James intimated that the tablets were not his goal, or even a point of focus. Réonan asked him what James’ goals were, which he found hard to answer. He said that he used to want to become the king of thieves, but that it was something that he no longer aspired to. Réonan asked him whether he would consider joining the Circle and explore the possibility of him having magical talents.
Luca mentioned that the heroes had picked up several artefacts that eluded his ability to divine their magical properties. He was wondering whether the Circle would be able to assist. Réonan responded by saying that the Circle used to have a very talented diviner, referring to Callum, and that the heroes had already met another diviner who might be able to address their wish, this time referring to Vydia.
James and Luca then brought up their concerns for the prisoners that Dr. Arkenward was keeping in his sanctum, in particular the young noble lady. Réonan admitted that in the tapestry of things that the Circle concerned themselves with, it was low on the list, but they would support the heroes in any endeavours to address the matter.
It was time for Réonan to depart, but before they did so, they gifted the heroes with a ring that would allow the heroes to contact them. When Luca took the ring he immediately recognised the lyrium crystal that crowned the band, as it was that very same crystal that he had given to Eustace, which he in turn had sold to someone from the Circle.
Before the heroes departed the Circle to head back to the Careless Wanderer before the curfew went into effect, Luca got Olafur to sell him a variety of incense and herbs. The one thing that Luca was after to complete the components he needed for a special ritual was charcoal, but unfortunately Olafur confirmed that there was a shortage of charcoal all throughout Kingsport.
When the heroes stepped outside the were surprised by the falling of the first snow. The flakes were large but flimsy and it made their clothing and the cobblestones slick and wet. While walking back, the heroes vented their frustration on Réonan’s position. Quentin was particularly angered by the continued aloofness of the Circle’s head archmage.
The sun had gone down by the time the heroes returned to the Careless Wanderer and the curfew was once again in effect.