Tag: A New Direction

Two Friends, One Lost and One Found

Previously, the heroes had brought their companion Astrid back to life and spend some time around a table discussing life and the future. To everyone’s surprise Quentin, who had received a response for his lord father to his letter, did not seem to remember writing his father. To find some confirmation the heroes went to speak with Toruviel Fast Feathers, the scribe of a Kingsport rookery from where Emrys remembered Quentin sending the letters. The scribe confirmed that the letters were sent and Quentin had to admit that perhaps the good sisters took more in tribute than he had bargained for.

Eighth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

The sun had gone down and the curfew that still rested on Kingsport was close at hand, but despite that, Luca wanted to go to the Circle of Magi and find Hamish. He had plans to establish contact with the cantankerous mage again in order to gain access to some of the spells that Luca was hoping to learn. And so the heroes set off into the foul weather, making note of the all three of the moons were once again on the rise, causing a light, violet colour to shine through the occasional breaks in the stormy clouds.

Once at the Circle, Olafur let them into the building and informed Luca that it had been a while since the Miðgarðurian had seen Hamish. After persuading the custodian of the Circle to allow the heroes access to Hamish’s room, they found that the young mage had not been in his room for a while. Olafur could also tell the heroes that Hamish had switched his research focus from conjuration to illusion magic. After giving the room a good once over, Luca concluded that it appeared as if Hamish hardly spent time in the room, but tried to make it seem as if he did.

Having concluded their business at the Circle, Olafur brought the heroes back to the lobby. Luca asked whether it was possible for the Circle to take a look at some of the artefacts that the heroes had liberated from Kalauranthalasis’ lair, which was possible once the circle had found a new archmage to take over the Circle of Divination after Callum’s passing.

Out on the streets in front of the Circle a lot quicker than expected, Emrys was keen on getting the perspective of the bards on recent events. He convinced his companions to make their way to the College of Bards, a short jaunt away and visit Andrew, one of Emrys’ friends who stayed there. The last time the heroes had come to the college it was a bustling place of music, laughter, discourse and creativity. But now, so close to the curfew going into effect, the amphitheatre in front was desolate and empty.

They found Andrew inside, slightly tipsy on wine and very happy to see them. His private chambers were lavish and he was eager to have everyone feel at home. Andrew poured everyone cups of wine which were from “father’s personal vinyard in Southernhay.” The conversation with Andrew was a bit erratic, to match the nature of the good man.

The heroes learned that “dark delirium” had been around for a little while, but really gained popularity during the curfew over the last ride. There were places throughout the city where one could go to imbibe something and enjoy the intoxication. These places were accessible through the ancient waterways, which were controlled by the local underworld.

The heroes also learned about house Courtenay; how the rivalry between house Valois and house Courtenay started in 941, when King Phillip d’Aragon became gravely ill and decreed on his deathbed that men and women would be equal in all manner of things, including inheritance. This meant that his eldest, princess Síle d’Aragon, rather than prince Estienne d’Aragon, would inherit the throne. Princess Síle would go on to marry a popular Beaclairois marquess, lord Tristan of house Valois, and thus the d’Aragon dynasty ended and the Valois dynasty began. Prince Estienne’s line would eventually give rise to the wealthy house Courtenay; who only four years prior had lead a rebellion against Queen Isabella when she took the throne at age twelve, when her father, King Augustine was assassinated by foreigners.

Lord Charles Courtenay was a principled and hard man who had used his great wealth and influence to stage a rebellion and get away with little more than a slap on the wrist. His house used to be the wardens of Northshire, which was taken away from them and given to house Corbray, whom the heroes had heard, as they had met Ser Roderick Corbray twice; once when they had returned to Kingsport from Pinefall, when they watched the knight fall to his knees in reverence to prior Benedict, and a short time ago when he welcomed them back to Kingsport at the docks.

An interesting detail about house Courtenay losing their wardenship was that they were not removed from the queen’s council, traditionally comprised of representatives of each of the warden houses.

Before departing the college, Andrew turned to Quentin and marvelled at the rose-covered scabbard at his side and once again recited the song he performed in the Wanderer when the heroes had just returned from Pinefall;

The earth was sown with early flowers, the heavens blue and bright,
I met a gallant cavalier as lovely as the light.
I knew him not, but in my heart, his graceful image lies,
And well I marked his open brow, his sweet and tender eyes.
He carried sword and scabbard, full of leaves and blossoms mixed,
Encased by vines and verdant growth, with flowering blooms betwixt.
Plunging sword in barren soil, crops and vintage grew,
The hungry, famished and the starved were given life anew.

When the heroes left the college the city was under curfew. The streets were empty and the only people out and about were crownsguard and groups of red custodians. This required the heroes to rely on James’ knowledge of the city and the backstreets in order to make it back to the Careless Wanderer.

Once back at the Wanderer, the heroes found that Lauryn and Durham were puzzled by something that went missing. Emrys and James recognised the fingerprints of Wynn all over this and agreed that the little quickling was quickly becoming a nuisance and would have to be dealt with sooner or later.

Emrys interrupted the two puzzled hostelers and asked Lauryn if it was possible to take a bath before retiring. Before the bath was fixed, Luca found him and asked for the spell scroll Emrys had taken from the dragon’s hoard that would allow him to summon a wizard’s familiar. Emrys gave it to him, and after Luca studied it in his room, he came to the realisation that he would need several gold crowns worth of charcoal and incense, which he would need to burn in a brass burner. He had seen brass burners at the House of the Raven Queen when Astrid was revived, but he had also heard that one of the prominent smiths in Kingsport was having trouble with a shipment of charcoal, so he was hoping he could arrange for all of that soon.

James went to his room to find he had to pick the lock to get in because Astrid had taken his key and locked the door behind her. She was out cold. After Emrys’ bath, he spent some time in the tavern, playing his lute and entertaining the few people in the Wanderer. He didn’t perform up to his own standards, but Lauryn was thankful enough that she covered the expenses of his food and drink.

Luca returned the spell scroll to Emrys before the latter retired for the night. Instead of transcribing the scroll, Luca had spent time investigating the the book he had taken from the hoard; The Luminous Enchiridion of Thunda. It was said to only open while exposed to arcane light, and indeed, Luca found that he could only pry the brass plates of its cover open when he had cast a Light spell on it. He perused the book, which was filled with wonderful arcane theorems which would surely help him in magical research. When the duration of the light spell expired, the book flipped closed and Luca found himself unable to open it again. It was time for him to finally go to sleep.

Sacrifice and Forgotten Memories

Previously, having saved the queen’s life, it was time for the heroes to attempt to revive their friend Astrid, who had died in the fight against Xamael. They turned to cardinal Roark, who stood at the head of the House of the Raven Queen. They had to plead for Astrid’s soul to return to her body, but with great effort and sacrifice Astrid was woken once again.

Eighth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

The heroes had returned to the Careless Wanderer, with a visible tired Astrid in tow. While the kitchen was not serving the same bountiful food as it had only rides before, Durham saw that the heroes were in need of the good stuff, and he decided to have a word with Ramsay to make sure that some proper food was going to be served up.

While the heroes waited, the conversation turned to Astrid’s lodgings and James offered up his room to her for the time being. Astrid took the key to James’ room and asked Durham to prepare a bath for her. Once the food was brought all began to eat. Astrid hardly said a word and just focussed on devouring as much of roasted the lamb shank she could. The rest ate and discussed their plans;

The heroes decided that it was important to find out more about Arkenward’s tablet, and they would need to find a way to safeguard the tablets they already had in their possession. James realised that now that he no longer have to carry around Astrid’s body, his bag of thievery would be empty enough to hold both the tablets. Emrys and Luca both realised that while the tablets would not be secured, they would certainly be obfuscated while in the bag.

There were other matters to attend to. The heroes had liberated a large cache of magical items from Kalauranthalasis’ lair which needed studying. They had been invited to visit the Courtenay manse in Ravensbourne. They needed new supplies. The heroes potentially wanted to look into the source of Dark Delirium. And while Wynn had been a fun distraction, the heroes started to realise that there might be some consequences to unleashing him on Kingsport.

James wanted to visit with the butcher for some house keeping, touching base with his guild leadership.

Luca wanted to learn some new spells and was going to barter at the Circle for them, and he wanted to transcribe and investigate some of the scrolls that Emrys had taken from the vault.

Quentin wanted to go past the Library of Ioun and potentially research the book of Celtician bloodlines he had taken from the ziggurat, while still having the ambition of reaping the rewards for saving the queen and liberating the rebel lords from the carceratum and leveraging that into getting an audience with the queen and her council. Not to mention that his lord father was riding for Kingsport.

And Emrys felt like Astrid was in need of some new armaments now that she had risen from the dead. He also wanted to speak to Le Papillon at the College of Bards, attempting to learn more about the legends behind Réonan.

Lauryn, who was on her way to do some of the inn’s laundry, came by the table to deliver the letter that lord Dorian had sent Quentin.

My son,

Your message left me perplexed. When I finally managed to get high lord Gauthier’s ear, he was left equally perplexed. We have done exactly as you suggested and the high lord has made some discrete inquiries. What he has shared with me has left me even more confused. We both agree that we should travel to the Lyrian capital and get some clarity, despite the rapidly changing weather. We expect to arrive midway through the second ride of Autumn Twilight.

By the swan.

Lord Dorian of House Morvrayne

Quentin was very troubled since he had no recollection of ever sending a message to his father. This in turn sparked a conversation with Emrys, who had accompanied Quentin to the rookery in order to send the letter. After some deliberation about this, the conclusion was drawn that Quentin’s sacrifice to the Good Sisters must have been the memory of whatever the handkerchief which had been associated to the contents of the letter, though Quentin himself found that very difficult to accept and said that Emrys must have been mistaken.

All the while, Astrid had been eating, like a woman whose soul purpose was to get through the shank, while waiting for her bath to be drawn.

While James suggested to Quentin to use some subterfuge once his lord father arrived in order to have his father reveal what he may have written in the letter to him, Emrys suggested visiting the rookery where they sent the letters from so that they could confirm that Quentin did indeed send the letters, hopefully sparking something in his memory.

As the plans were made to go to the rookery, Quentin became quite despondent and down. James reminded him that he was a knight and that he should approach all hardship as any other battle; to be fought and conquered. While the battle was different than the one he’s fought before, Quentin needed to master this, just like he mastered attacking, feigning and riposting.

Before departure, Emrys checked on Astrid, who was soaking in a hot tub in the basement of the Careless Wanderer, vast asleep.

The heroes climbed Quayhill, heading towards the Bastion of Illumination, the enormous light house which loomed high over the city and was part of the city’s ramparts. In its shadow was the manse that housed Fast Feathers Rookery. With some inquiries the heroes found the original scribe, the proprietor of the operations at the rookery; Toruviel Fast Feathers. He recalled that Quentin had sent a message to lord Dorian and lady Gwenaëlle, which shocked Quentin as well. While the heroes were talking about lord Dorian and high lord Gauthier making their way to Kingsport, Toruviel shared that he had seen a dispatch which suggested that king Covis, the current ruler of Beauclair had been threatened by the last survivor of a legendary house; house La Valette.

Before the heroes said goodbye to Toruviel and left the rookery, the scribe asked whether he was allowed to see Emrys’ blade once again; obviously holding enormous significance beyond sharing his name with the blade.

As the heroes made their way back to the Careless Wanderer through the rough weather they learned a few things about Quentin. First, Quentin thought his father not to be a particularly good man; one who would do anything to get ahead.

Róisín came up in conversation. Once named Fleur, the ancestral blade of house Lys, it was evident to Luca that the high lord might be travelling to Kingsport to retrieve the blade. Quentin said that the blade was no longer Fleur and that there was a duality in the blade as it had absorbed Ser Estienne’s spirit into it.

While Emrys and James paid a visit to the Circle and spoke to Olafur to find out where Dr. Arkenward was and learned that he was living in a small manse in the old town ward with his aen adhar wife Vydia, Luca and Quentin went directly back to the Careless Wanderer. Luca attempted to use some of his newfound radiant powers to try and dispel the forgetfulness that the Good Sisters had left Quentin with. It failed and Blackstar mocked Luca’s attempt to go undo the old magicks of the hags. Quentin wondered whether the ghost orchids could be used to heal him, a notion that Luca believed the hags would never have allowed.

Later, Luca spend some time to use his magic to divine the nature of the different magical items they had collected over the last couple of months. He found a multitude of curious objects, armours and weapons, as well as a few curious books and potions. One item in particular was hard to divine the nature of; the whip carried by Xamael, who turned out to have much in common with the other Arms of the Senhadrim. It housed a sentient spirit and was very formidable indeed.

Reviving a Friend

Previously, the heroes managed to revive the queen from her torpor, but not without suspecting there was a higher price to pay than was immediately apparent. In doing so, the heroes got into conflict with princess Mildred, the queen’s aunt, and her husband the steward of Kingsport, lord Gabriel. They tried to interfere with the process and had to pay for it with their lives. It was clear that princess Mildred had been an agent of Xamael.

Seventh Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

The heroes had just finished up their intense conversation with Réonan, the grand archmage of the Circle of Magi, while Luca had a conversation of his own with Aurion at the Cathedral of the Platinum Father. It was late in the afternoon, and the heroes were really starting to feel the fatigue of the last couple of days weighing down on them.

As they made their way down the Elysian street, Quentin and Emrys were still talking about what Réonan said, and the likelihood that Quentin would receive his reward for liberating the rebel lords from the carceratum; an audience with the queen’s council so that he can rally the nobility to action. Réonan’s position had been one of inaction, which frustrated Quentin. Emrys understood the frustration; in his tribe he was meant to be a prodigy, a saviour, but he never believed in fate. To believe in fate was to believe in a lack of agency; you were merely a cog in a machine.

While Quentin and Emrys spoke and headed to the Careless Wanderer, James went to look for Luca. There were not many people on the street, but he managed to knock on a few friendly doors and ask some bored people whether they had seen a dark figure with a long staff come by. While he didn’t find a trace of Luca, he did managed to find out that a lot of the Steady Hand’s operations had moved below the surface of the street, likely to avoid detection from the patrolling crownguard and custodians.

In the meantime, Luca was about to depart the cathedral. On his way out he approached some of the clerics and asked about prior Benedict’s whereabouts. After the clerics made the sign of the triangle in respect, they informed Luca that the living saint had headed north, into the Silverpine Hills, in order to discover the site of the first cathedral, which he intended to rebuild.

When Luca stepped outside he saw James making his way across the empty Steward Square. They met on the steps of the cathedral, in the wind and rain, and James gave Luca an earful of grief for leaving the Circle by himself while carrying one of the tablets. To his credit, Luca did not deny that it was a mistake. The two decided to go to the Careless Wanderer and meet up with the Quentin and Emrys.

The Careless Wanderer was quiet and subdued. When the heroes left Kingsport to head to Eastmarsh the place had been filled to the rafters with visitors and fisherfolk who were looking to participate in the annual royal master angling competition. It would be at least another ride before the competitors would return to Kingsport, before the first snow, in the hopes of becoming this year’s master angler. For now, it was quiet.

The heroes arranged for some rooms with Lauryn, the friendly aen cannell. She asked after Astrid’s whereabouts, but the heroes kept it vague. Emrys took a luxurious room overlooking the stables, while James, Luca and Quentin each took a simple, single room. Luca made a point to ask for the single room he had when he first laid eyes on Aurion, just before departing Kingsport to go in search of Lord Destan.

When James went up to his room to put away his belongings he was surprised to find that Wynn was still hiding away inside his bag. He decided to let the excited little guy wander around the inn freely. The young quickling was delighted to hear he had finally made it to the fabled Kingsport.

“We’re finally in Kingsport! I’m going to be famous here!”
– Wynn the Quickling

Eighth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

The following morning Luca did something that he had never done in earnest; he prayed. Because he did not know any prayers, he had to reach back to some of the childhood prayers and rhymes that he was taught. As he did so he felt a warmth fill his body which reinvigorated him.

During a very sober breakfast in a quiet tavern room Luca shared with the others that prior Benedict was no longer in Kingsport. He was going to be their first port of call in order to see about besieging the gods about Astrid’s death. Instead, the heroes discussed the possibility of turning to the House of the Raven Queen. Due to the nature of Astrid’s death, and the way in which Xamael had reanimated her body to fight against her friends, the heroes felt that the Raven Queen might be susceptible to the argument that Astrid fell before her time.

Near the end of breakfast, a crash could be heard from the kitchen, followed by cursing from Ramsay. The heroes could hear the distinct sound of a playful little bell which told them that Wynn was the cause of the ruckus. All of them looked to James, who just shrugged and smiled.

After breakfast the heroes went around to the stables and found Wojciech who was busy shoeing a horse. He was happy to see the heroes had returned, but guessed their intention; they wanted him to head down to the Sheridan estate to pick up their horses. He was happy to do so but said that the roads were more treacherous. Bandits had moved south from the Plains of Strife as that area had become more dangerous. He would take two friends along and for 2 crowns he would leave that afternoon and return the following day.

The heroes also spoke to Lauryn in order to safeguard some of the items they were unwilling to take with them to the House of the Raven Queen; most notably Blackstar, with which Luca wasn’t welcome the first time he tried to enter. Quentin decided to leave the Armour of the Malakim behind as well, as the package was simply too heavy for him to carry. They would be stored in a closet in Magda’s quarters for safe keeping.

Luca asked Lauryn if she could get a message to Hamish Black that he wished to speak to him, to which Lauryn immediately started balking. She told Luca that he knew that Hamish was not welcome in the Wanderer any longer, but the plan was for Luca to meet the young mage at the Circle. Lauryn agreed to seen a messenger. All the conversation of messengers reminded Lauryn that there had been a message for Quentin from his lord father Dorian Morvrayne, who was said to be en route to Kingsport together with lord Gauthier of House Lys. The news of this turned Quentin’s throat dry and his stomach to water.

The House of the Raven Queen stood opposite the Wanderer. Its gothic architecture was hard to miss, but the heroes had gotten used to it. Now that it was their destination they could really appreciate how much the building stood out. In contrast to almost all buildings in Kingsport, which were made from Northshire limestone, the Raven Queen’s sacred home was made with jet-black stone. It was grand in its design, much like Paladine’s cathedral, but without all the decorations, having chosen instead to adopt sleek, long lines which made the building look like a weeping willow, or a melting candle. The tall, wooden doors were unadorned except for the pattern of feathers engraved in it.

When the heroes knocked the doors were opened by clerics, so called silent brothers and sisters, each of them soberly dressed in black robes, with their faces painted white with dark charcoal rings painted around their eyes, making them look like solemn, sad and ghastly at the same time.

Inside the cavernous building was dark and gloomy, with the only light coming through the tall windows from the grey skies outside or from the rings of candles that were lit around each of the thick support pillars that held the ceiling aloft. A small number of people were there, either alone or in small groups clustered together, mourning or remembering their fallen loved ones. The silent brothers and sisters moved quietly in the darkness beyond.

The heroes were lead down the long aisle toward an unadorned, grey block of stone which served as its altar. An older man stood there, with broad shoulders and a strong body, shrouded in a dark robe. His face was clean shaven and his head bald. He wore a simple black hat and had intense green eyes. He introduced himself as cardinal Roark. His words broke the silence in the building like a curse.

When it became clear why the heroes had come, the cardinal asked the silent brothers and sisters to clear the building, and for the heroes to all place their hands on the altar and tell the Raven Queen about Astrid’s death. James told about their mission, about saving the queen and their conflict with Xamael. The cardinal concluded that James had not address Astrid’s death.

Quentin took a turn and explained how loyal Astrid had been, how he had let her down and how much he had regretted that. James, who was sceptical at first, scrutinised Quentin’s words but had to conclude that the young Beauclairois knight was speaking honestly. The cardinal was still not satisfied.

It was only when the heroes truly addressed the fight with Xamael, Astrid’s death and how she had been raised as Xamael’s undead minion before they had to put her down again. The cardinal seemed satisfied and went to practical matters of the body and the material sacrifice. He explained that three of them had to participate in the ritual and attempt to call Astrid’s spirit back.

When the ritual started, two silent brothers brought heavy censers which spread an intoxicating smoke throughout the building until the altar and the heroes were completely surrounded by pale, scented smoke. The cardinal began to recite long litanies to the Raven Queen, which took a very long time. Eventually, he invited the first of the heroes to convince Astrid to come back.

Emrys decided to go first and said that he and Astrid went back a long time and that he had come to know her as someone who loved life, relishing every encounter and every moment, taking them as they came. Emrys said that Astrid was taken unjustly and that he looked forward to her return. From somewhere in the smoke the heroes could hear Astrid’s voice ring out.

“It gladdens me to know that Odin prepares for a feast! Soon I shall be drinking ale from curved horns! This hero that comes into Valhalla does lament her death. I shall not enter Odin’s halls with fear.”

Luca was next to speak. He assured Astrid that she would indeed be welcomed in Odin’s halls, but that it was not her time yet for she had not felt the salt spray on her skin as she captained her own ship across the Bay of Teeth. He promised her that he even had a ship for her. Again, Astrid’s voice cried out.

“I shall wait for my sons to join me, and when they do, I will bask in their tales of triumph. The Æsir will welcome me. My death comes without apology. And I welcome the valkyries to summon me home!”

James was last to speak. He said that there Æsir would welcome her more if they had seen more adventures together. That the world needed her, and that there was more to do. He asked her if she would join them or their quests. James asked her what the rush was.

When her body began to stir it was not in the same, violent way in which the queen stirred when she was revived. Nor did Astrid’s eyes shine with an infernal glow when she finally opened them. Stiffly she rose to her elbows and pushed herself up into a seated position. She looked ghastly, with dark, charcoal rings around her eyes. She had returned and the heroes welcomed her back and they would wait to see how her revival had changed her.