Tag: A Royal Sickness

Rats!

Previously, the Heroes of the White Eye entered the carceratum in search of the rebel lords with the purpose of liberating them. The prisoners had overrun the prison and the heroes were unsure what they would find there. Once inside, the prisoners tried to repel the and a fight broke out in which Luca killed several prisoners and Astrid beat several of them into unconsciousness.

The prisoners retreated and a dialogue was opened. It turned out that the two rebel lords, one of which had been wounded in an attempt on his life, had allied themselves with two senior prisoners in order to break out into the ancient waterways, only to have stumbled upon a large host of skaven.

Ninth Day, First Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

James, after staying at the rear until it was clear how some of the prisoners who belonged to the Sunken Knuckles gang would respond to his presence, moved up to the area of the carceratum where the prisoners had made their stand. The prisoners unfortunate enough to get in Astrid’s way were slowly regaining consciousness behind him and moving to rejoin the rest of the prisoners.

After having engaged the prisoners as well as the rebel lords in a discussion, the heroes found that they had found a way out of the carceratum by breaking through a wall into the waterways. Garvan, a member of the Steady Hand who was a specialist in moving about the waterways, was confident that once they could get into the waterways and get past the skaven he could get everyone to the surface within ten minutes, emerging anywhere in or around Steward Square.

The different options were discussed. Taking the rebel lords out of the prison by way of Luca’s proposed portals was met with hesitation from lord Fabian, as the two lords had given their word to Yurina and Garvan that they would make sure they would be liberated as well. It was clear that a small group of the prisoners believed that surrendering to the crownsguard would lead to their immediate execution, while others believed they would be punished very harshly. James suggested that those who felt in danger could possibly be smuggled out of the prison by Emrys turning them invisible. Lastly, there was the option of going into the waterways and fighting the skaven opposition they would find there.

In a surprising turn of eloquence, Blackstar spoke to Luca and told him that it believed that evil men shouldn’t be executed for fear of “swelling the wrong ranks in the war to come.” It volunteered to reap them instead.

A decision was made to clear the hole in the wall which lead to the waterways and see what the skaven opposition was like. Using Blackstar’s uncanny ability to detect the souls in the vicinity, Luca noticed that there were in excess of three dozen souls in the area. In the meantime, James went to inspect the assassin, who had been chained up in one of the cells. When the assassin was about to exclaim praise for Melchior, his father, James had heard enough and shot an arrow into the man’s chest, killing him instantly.

Once Quentin and Astrid broke through the barrier and moved into the waterways, a foul smelling sewer tunnel whose bricks were slick with slime and phosphorescent moss, they were beset from all sides by the vicious skaven, quickly swarming forth in a bid to overwhelm them. There were over a dozen of them, ranging from the small and feeble to the larger, ogre-sized skaven, ridden by their whip-wielding taskmasters. Among them, was another shaman, which had caused them so much trouble in the catacombs underneath the Sheridan estate.

The Rebel Lords

Previously, the players concluded their investigations into the queen’s illness in Kingsport and decided to go on Callum the Diviner’s expedition to Eastmarsh to find out more about the cursed khazra head. Before their departure, they decided to help lady Annabella and lady commander Miranda in liberating the rebel lords from the Kingsport Carceratum.

Ninth Day, First Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

Just prior to entering the carceratum Luca and James bought two sets of commoner’s clothes and discovered that behind the Magisterium, overlooking the rear of the House of the Raven Queen there was an alleyway connecting two small squares that were perfect places where Luca could take the rebel lords using the translocation magic he had recently discovered.

When everyone was finally ready to enter the carceratum, they found the inside hallway as heavily barricade by the prisoners as the outside hallway had been barricaded by the crownsguard. The prisoners hurled garbage and furniture from the top of a barricaded staircase, making it very difficult to engage them. Much to James’ chagrin they also did not seem open to conversation or discussion. Astrid and Quentin scaled the barricades while Luca hurled angry bolts of eldritch energy at the prisoners, killing several of them. Once Astrid got her hands on some of them, pummelling them into unconsciousness, a retreat was called for from further in the dungeons and the prisoners began to fall back.

The heroes approached and again attempted a parley, which was reciprocated by an elderly man they soon found out to be lord Fabian Fetterling, a man Luca remembered to have been at the Seat of Friendship, debating brother Shakeslocke when he called for the persecution of warlocks and witches.

The rebel lord had taken command of a group of prisoners in the wake of an attack on lord Szymon, who was left injured. The assassin was carrying a wicked dagger but had been fought off just shy of killing lord Szymon and was now held in one of the cells, shackled to the wall.

Two prisoners had been instrumental in an escape plan; Garvan the Tunneler, a member of the Steady Hand who worked for the night master as an expert in the ancient waterways, and Yurina, a vicious member of the Sunken Knuckles who had filed down her teeth for a more gruesome appearance. They had found the perfect place to break through a wall and enter from the carceratum into the ancient waterways. Unfortunately the part of the waterways they had entered into was infested with skaven, and the prisoners were forced to retreat back into the carceratum for their safety.

Preparing to Liberate the Rebel Lords

Previously, the heroes concluded their investigation of the queen’s quarters and went to the Circle of Magi in order to investigate the khazra head and talk to Callum the Diviner who told them more about the political ramifications of the queen’s illness and why it was so important to find a cure.

James gained more information on the ghost orchid from Ecgbrith the herbalist while also going out of his way to inform some of the people he knew in the city about a possible outbreak, all the while drinking more and more in order to deal with the mounting pressure.

Lady Annabella Waxley and the lady commander Miranda Ravensbourne came to speak to the heroes in order to convince them to find their way into the Kingsport carceratum to bring the rebel lords incarcerated there to safety; something the heroes decided to discuss further the following day.

Emrys introduced Quentin to lord Andrew Selkirk, a troubadour who taught at the College of Bards in Kingsport who had heard rumours of Fleur, the legendary sword belonging to Ser Estienne and came to perform in order to elicit the wielder of the blade to come out and have a conversation with him.

Ninth Day, First Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

When the heroes woke up they found that the weather has improved as compared to the previous couple of days. Astrid was awake and was raising the fire in the hearth while James continued to sleep. Luca got up and washed himself and continued to page through his mysterious tome while Quentin arranged for food to be brought up to the room.

When everyone had eaten their fill, Quentin woke up James who quickly grabbed some of the remainders and stuffed it into his mouth. Luca asked him if he wanted to freshen up before going out to meet lady Annabella and the lady commander, but he felt no such inclination.

When the heroes departed the Careless Wanderer and headed to the cathedral of the Platinum Father they made sure to stop to see if any news had been posted on the notice board on Steward Square. Nothing new had presented itself and the heroes decided to observe the busy square.

After a short wait a coach with two black horses came riding up the square stopping in front of the cathedral. Lady commander Miranda exited the coach and mentioned for the heroes to come up. Astrid, carrying a great sword decided to stay outside while the rest climbed aboard to speak to lady Annabella inside. The lady commander went inside the cathedral to pay her respects.

Lady Annabella reiterated her desire for the heroes to go into the carceratum and liberate the two rebel lords from their predicament so that they may be imprisoned elsewhere and their safety guaranteed. James wanted his reward to be a writ of passage so that he may take refuge on palace grounds if the need ever arose. Lady Annabella was willing to do so, but said that the writ was only as valuable as the person who signed it; it would depend entirely on her station on the time of James’ use whether it be worth anything at all.

Quentin was keen on getting some diplomatic help to gain access to the queen and her diplomats. Lady Annabella was not too keen on a blind promise like that, but begrudgingly agreed to it, but promised Quentin that if she was made a fool in the process he would regret it.

Surprisingly, Luca wanted to be granted an honourary title, or honourary degree from the Circle of Magi. He preferred the degree, but would settle for a title. Lady Annabella said that she couldn’t guarantee the degree, but would likely be able to get him the title he was after.

Astrid only cared for one thing; a suitable contribution to the fund she was building in order to purchase her ship. Emrys, who had stayed very quiet during the entire exchange didn’t dare to ask for payment, as lady Annabella claimed he was still indebted to her.

The queen’s handmaid asked for the heroes to leave an empty letter addressed to her to be left with Lauryn at the Wanderer; she would know how to get the letter to the handmaid and it would set in motion the necessary steps for someone to take custody of the two rebel lords when the heroes emerged from the carceratum with them.

Luca, who had exited the coach, decided to enter the cathedral and found the lady commander in one of the pews, kneeling in devotion to the Platinum Father. He was taking in all of the details of the impressive building, the nave, the choir, the transcept, the main chapel, and the two minor chapels, as well as the countless shrines to saints and angels. He was reminded of the fact that the last time he had seen his patron was when they retreated into the cathedral after sharing their name with Luca, and he was left wondering what it all meant.

While the other spoke to the handmaid, James went to quickly inspect the carceratum; a short and stocky tower standing on Steward Square right next to the Magisterium. He noticed that most of the crownsguard were more heavily armed and that inside the tower there was a barricade which was erected around a staircase leading down into the dungeon.

Lady commander Miranda could provide the heroes with a quick, charcoal sketch on a piece of parchment of the inside of the carceratum, giving the heroes a good sense of the inside and its dimensions. Concluding their conversation with the two noble women the heroes retreated back to the Careless Wanderer to get ready.

Luca conjured up the spell which would allow him to travel a short distance instantaneously and absorbed it into Blackstar. He had recently developed the spell from the foundation of the Ritual of Returning which he learned in Atilesceon’s tower, and it might prove useful in escaping the carceratum.

Everyone handed their weapons to James, who hid them in his mysterious bag of thievery which he, in turn, gave to Luca. The young warlock cast an illusion on himself that disguised him slightly; making his clothing and equipment look plain and forgetful, while he himself took on a slightly more bulky and sturdy appearance.

It was midway through the afternoon when the heroes presented themselves to the crownsguard at the carceratum, claiming that they were responding to the notice they had found calling on people to help quell the uprising. Soon after, they were talking to warden Valgard, an old, slimy little man who offered them one gold crown per ear they retrieved from the carceratum, obviously not caring one bit for the prisoners left in his care.

The heroes were directed to the staircase leading down into the dungeons, made their way past the heavily armed crownsguard and climbed over several barricades which had been thrown up to keep the prisoners from storming out. The dark dungeons under the streets of Kingsport awaited them.

Orchids, Flowers and Thorns

Previously, the Heroes of the White Eye spoke to priestess Emma and were treated to a warm sauna on a dreary day. They learned more about the situation in and around the palace and the state that the queen was in. They convinced lieutenant William of Eastwarren, the head of the palace guard, to give them access to the queen’s ante-chamber as well as her bedroom, where she lay in torpor. They found she was protected by Dr. Arkenward, the royal abjurer, who was not just keeping the queen alive, but also kept the curse that had taken hold of her from spreading.

Eighth Day, First Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

The heroes had concluded their investigation of the queen’s chambers and had been unable to find any clues relating to the mysterious box, the morbid khazra head inside, or the curse that had befallen the queen. They retired back to the barracks of the crownsguard on the palace grounds to conclude their conversations.

A young crownsguard by the name of Eric came to report to the lieutenant that a strange apparition of a woman had been spotted in the Grimsdown ward. Supposedly she had turned into a frightening spectre when she was approached by the guards who discovered her. They had fled in terror and when they returned with reinforcements they had found the apparition to be gone.

The heroes recognised the description as that of a Pesta; a pestilence spectre. With the exception of Quentin, who only joined the heroes after their run-in with the Pesta in the basement of an alchemy shop in Bournemouth, the heroes realised that, if true, it might mean that the Pesta was drawn by the potentiality of the queens affliction. They recommended to the lieutenant that the guards best be accompanied by a mage if they were to confront the apparition again.

Quentin, wise in the formal ways of the court and the nobility, asked whether they could be given a letter of passage so that they may gain access to the khazra head for inspection. The lieutenant had explained that the head was at the Circle of Magi and it seemed prudent to carry such a letter in case their access might be denied. Lieutenant William drew up a letter and affixed it with the scarlet seal of the palace crownsguard.

Once they had departed the palace, the heroes discussed on what to do next. Luca suggested leaving town, either in the hopes of putting as much distance between him and the possible calamity that might occur in Kingsport, or maybe because he was keen to follow up on Callum’s mission to find out more about the spell of warding placed over the cursed object preventing the diviner from coming up with a way to break the curse.

James thought it would be prudent to talk to the people at the Cirle of Magi first and to stop by the herbalist outside of Kingsport in order to find out some more information on the ghost orchid. Quentin thought it important to inform the different healers around the city in order to prepare them for a possible outbreak of disease and at the very least talk to Emma about what they had discovered. James trusted that Dr. Arkenward would inform the necessary people if he was unable to contain the curse on the queen, but Quentin was not so certain he’d be able to.

At the Circle of Magi the heroes found that Shakeslocke and the red custodians of the monastic order of St. Catherine were nowhere to be found. The door was answered by Olafur, who let them into the lobby. When the heroes explained why they had come, Olafur left them being tended to by a small whirlwind of scintillating colours who brought them some refreshments. The custodian stepped through a nearly invisible door built into the wooden panelling of one of the walls and shortly returned with Callum the Diviner. After being presented the letter of passage the two men lead the heroes through the door and down a very long corridor.

They passed doors and doors which all looked alike until, almost randomly, they stopped in front of one of them. When they went through it the heroes found themselves in a comfortable room fit for research. There were all manner of books and tools at their disposal. On one of the tables sat the decapitated head of a khazra, covered in tar, with long, rusty nails driven into its eyes. Its horns were covered in evil looking script which Luca identified to be abyssal, but was unable to glean any useful information from.

When discussing the situation of the queen with the two mages, Luca got a little too emotional for Callum’s liking when the diviner dismissed Luca’s suggestion of taking the queen out of the capital and onto a boat in order to prevent her curse from spreading. Callum thought it careless and blind to the political reality that Lyria found itself in and the ramifications that such a decision would have. Callum concluded that he may have made a mistake in confiding in the heroes and they were kindly asked to leave.

While on their way back to the Careless Wanderer Quentin asked Luca why he reacted so inconsiderately. When Luca then started lashing out at Quentin instead, Emrys stepped in and diffused the situation while simultaneously telling Luca how he had been in the wrong. In the meantime James had made use of the distraction to slip into the shadows and head to the herbalist.

After arriving at the herbalist’s cottage, Ecgbrith invited James in for a conversation. As they spoke it became clear to James that it would be beneficial for the herbalist to share what he knew about the orchid with the rest of the heroes and James convinced the herbalist to come back to the Careless Wanderer with him, which he did with great reluctance. Before departure, Ecgbrith asked whether James had been sleeping well, offering him an herb to improve his sleep, which James declined.

Astrid, Quentin, Luca and Emrys arrived back at the Wanderer and found it filled with people, cheerfully eating and drinking while listening to a troubadour that Emrys recognised as lord Andrew Selkirk, whom he had travelled to Kingsport with from the Riverlands. Lauryn came up to inform them that some visitors had been waiting in their room for them.

Upstairs, the heroes found lady commander Miranda and lady Annabella waiting for them. They were keen to know whether the heroes were able to help them bring two of the rebel lords kept at the Kingsport carceratum to safety. They had been imprisoned there and lady commander Miranda had vouched for their safety, but since the lord steward started interfering with her duties, the two lords had been put among the general populace. Word had it that an attempt on lord Szymon Radowan’s life had been made, just as the riots in the carceratum began.

Emrys asked lady Annabella whether she still required help with lord Peregrine Blackwell, but she said that she had found a solution to the bothersome young lord, sending him on a wild goose chase. Lady commander Miranda said that she had hoped the heroes would be able and willing to help out, since they had decided to stay in Kingsport rather than go to the north-western part of Lyria to investigate the orc invasion.

The heroes decided they needed some time to consider and that they would meet the two noble women at the Cathedral of the Platinum Father at noon the next day. The lady commander and the queen’s handmaid departed.

Shortly after, James arrived together with Ecgbrith and the cantankerous herbalist told them all he could about the ghost orchid. He said the orchid was very rare and the source of great and power, which the herbalist called “old magic.” The orchid grew among the roots of the scarlet cypress, which is a tree known only to grow on the sites of great bloodshed. He said that the Druids of the Fang sacrificed their followers by the hundreds and thousands in order to use their blood to fertilise the soil to grow the dreaded trees in order to cultivate the orchids.

Eventually, when the herbalist had left, James decided to leave the Careless Wanderer in order to speak to the people he cared about and tell them to prepare for trouble or leave town. Luca decided to speak to Callum, who was staying at a different room in the inn, and apologise to him for his words, which the old man accepted.

Meanwhile, Emrys had invited Quentin to come downstairs in order to listen to the troubadour sing, promising the young knight that it might well be in his interest. The troubadour was playing a harp that reminded Quentin of Ser Estienne, and the ballad that he sang touched him deeply, singing about a young cavalier from old Celticia who came to join the Silver Crusade and taught them the chivalric virtues. The cavalier carried a special sword;

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.

After the performance was over, Emrys introduced lord Andrew to Quentin and the two spoke about the ballad, the cavalier and the sword. Quentin invited him up to the room and showed him Róisín. Lord Andrew was amazed and delighted and told Quentin of the incalculable value and historical significance that sword had. He admitted that he had heard the stories of Quentin carrying the sword and that he had done some research in the library at the College of Bards to find the story on Ser Estienne.

Eventually, the noble troubadour departed and James returned just before midnight. Before turning in for the night they considered their options while James continued to drink; something the others had noticed he did more and more latetely.

The expedition to Blackbough, the small settlement deep in Eastmarsh was not going to depart until the first day of the next ride, which James didn’t quite understand. It would provide them the opportunity to prepare for the travel and perhaps look into the safety of the rebel lords. James was not convinced of the virtue of rescuing the rebel lords, but he was willing to help out.

Investigating the Sick Queen

Previously, the heroes had returned from the Sheridan estate finding that the city was on the cusp of the annual royal master angler competition, to start the following ride, and the Careless Wanderer was packed. Regardless, the heroes stumbled upon captain Randall and Callum the Diviner who had come down from Blackbridge to help resolve the mystery of the queen’s illness. They almost got conscripted into an expedition to Eastmarsh to find the source of a rare orchid that was involved in the queen’s illness, but decided to first investigate the matter from within the capital.

Eighth Day, First Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

The heroes found themselves at the Careless Wanderer, retreated to their room in order to talk through their plans away from the packed tavern room. It had become clear to them that they wanted to speak to Dr. Arkenward and find out how the Khazra head got into the queen’s chamber. They thought a good start was to talk to Emma, whom they were hoping to find at the Sacred Baths of Sedna. Perhaps she would be able to answer some questions and fill in the gaps. And lastly, they wanted to send a letter to Falka of Dunagore, the young lecturer at the Bournemouth Academy and ask her to look into whether the curse that was placed on the queen was written about in the history books.

Emrys suggested James get in touch with some of the people of his guild to see if he could find out anything regarding the situation from them. James was very reticent and concluded that he would probably be better off not being in touch with them for a while.

When the heroes departed to go to the Sacred Baths, they noticed that captain Randall had just gone ahead of them and was making his way to Steward Square. There they saw him nail a letter to the notice board in front of the Magisterium. They waited for him to leave and went to investigate what he had left behind. They found several messages that they found interesting.

Crownsguard Looking for Honest Witnesses

The Crownsguard are looking for anyone who has any knowledge of who might have been involved in the delivery of the cursed package to the palace and into the queen’s chambers. Anyone who has any knowledge that will lead to the apprehension of those involved will be royally rewarded. Present yourself to the palace crownsguard.

– Lieutenant William of Eastwarren, Palace Crownsguard

[Affixed is the seal of the Palace Crownsguard]

The decree has been vandalised by several people calling for the execution of Lord Szymon Radowan and Lord Fabian Fetterling.

Soldiers, Guards and Mercenary, Quell the Uprising!

The kingdom needs you! Prisoners have been causing trouble and heroic people are needed to crush their insolence. Present yourself to any of the crownsguard of the Carceratum and ask for Warden Valgard.

Good Coin for a Guide

I am looking for a stalwart ranger who can act as my guide over the next few rides. Mountaineering and swamp navigation are a benefit. Paying in hard coin and can outspend any others.

– Lord Peregrine Blackwell, First of His Name

Will Work For Food

I fled here from the Elder Foothills. Haven’t got nothing to eat. Will do anything at all that’ll earn me a bowl of something hot, even if it’s porridge. Find me in front of the Cathedral on Steward’s Square.

– Berengar

Gardener Wanted

Looking for an experienced gardener to work on transitioning the design of my lord’s courtyard in Ravensbourne from the Daerlan style to the Lyrian.

– Hendrik of Grimsdown, Majordomo to Lord Caedmon Bromley in Kingsport

A Special Sermon

We have a saint walking among us again today! Brought back from the clutches of the Dark Queen top bring the word of the Lord! Come to the cathedral on the last day of the first ride to watch Saint Benedict speak, to hear his words. He is a privilege to all and a direct blessing from the Platinum Father.

Reserve your seats at the Cathedral.

– Lord Bishop Aldred Grey, Voice of the Platinum Father

Expedition to Cure the Queen

Looking for hardy people willing to help find a cure for our queen’s ailment. Must be willing to travel no later than the first day of the second ride. Wilderness, arms or hunting experience is preferred. Knowledge of the arcane or herbalism will be rewarded extra. Present yourself to Lieutenant William of Eastwarren at the palace or Captain Randall of Blackbridge at the Careless Wanderer for more details.

The heroes retrieved Lieutenant’s summons as well as captain Randall’s notice. Quentin had the ambition to gain entrance to the Library of Ioun, so he took the notice left by Lord Caedmon Bromley’s majordomo. And lastly, Emrys took the post by Lord Peregrine; not certain what to do with it yet, but at the very least to prevent him from finding a guide.

When the heroes arrived at the Sacred Baths, they entered and were greeted by an elderly woman in a robe who informed Emma. Emma was pleased to the see them and invited them to enjoy the baths with her when James asked if they could talk in private.

After dressing down to their small clothes, the heroes found themselves in a chamber filled with braziers that held hot stones. Water was sprinkled on the stones to cause a hot mist. In the centre of the chamber sat a large pool. Those willing to sweat it out stayed on wooden benches outside of the pool, while those looking for a more relaxing time sat in the pool. All the while they spoke together, while occasionally sprinkling more water on the hot stones.

Emma explained that she would be happy to help the heroes, but that she found herself frozen out of the group of people around the queen trying to help her recover. Emma was asked by Lady Annabella Waxley to consult on the queen’s condition and found that she was being tended to by Dr. Arkenward, Lord Bishop Aldred Grey of the Platinum Father, High Priest Selwyn of Pholtus and Mother Superior Arwyn of Pholtus. Lieutenant William of Eastwarren, the head of the palace crownsguard, was in charge of the investigation and Emma said she could easily introduce the heroes to both Lady Annabella and Lieutenant William.

Emma explained that the queen’s condition was very dire; her breath was fast and shallow and her skin was pale, bordering on translucent. Dr. Arkenward was watching over the queen, almost in a trance, keeping her from expiring. When Luca mentioned that Callum the Diviner wanted to mount an expedition to Eastmarsh to find out more about a ghost orchid which was used in the ward around the curse placed on the khazra head, she recalled that she had heard of that orchid. She knew it was a very rare flower that only grew in the flooded forest around the spring of the river Ivel, around a small settlement called Blackbough. She advised that Ecgbrith, the cantankerous Kaewyni herbalist could possibly know more about the flower.

After discussing the political situation, as well as some of the details of the khazra head, the heroes decided to say goodbye to Emma and head towards the palace. Before departure, Emma said that she hoped to see them again when the situation was resolved, since she needed their help in tending to Muirgheal, her legendary trident.

On the way to the palace some of the heroes noticed that posters had been slapped on the walls buildings all throughout town. All of them depicted a man wearing regal robes and a crown on a sweaty brow was fucking a bound and gagged man from behind. The bound man had the head of animal; either a blue lion’s head, a grey wolf’s head, or a black bird’s head, depending on the version of the poster, while behind them a woman in regal robes was playing with a rattle-toy on the edge of a bed in which a woman with a green face was laying. Emrys quickly identified that the caricatures with the animal heads were supposed to be house Courtnay, Grey and Ravensbourne, while the man fucking the houses was the steward, with princess Mildred, the steward’s wife, sitting on the edge of the sick queen’s bed. Several crownsguard were seen trying to remove the posters where they found them.

After presenting themselves at the palace, they were brought in front of the handsome lieutenant William of Eastwarren, the folk hero who had made his name on the Plains of Strife and was rewarded with his position as the head of the palace crownsguard. He appeared to have run out of leads in his investigation and had sent out a call for witnesses and information. He was somewhat disappointed to hear that the heroes didn’t have any but was happy to accept their help, knowing what they had achieved in the rescue of the cursed crusaders. He answered several questions that the heroes had and shed some light on the details of the situation.

Lieutenant William said that brother Shakeslocke had offered to interrogate the servants, diplomats, nobles and guards who had been present on palace grounds during the time that lead up to the queen discovering the dreadful package in her antechamber. It was an offer he had not considered yet, but if there was no breakthrough he would have no choice but to revisit that offer.

The heroes convinced the lieutenant to show them the antechamber, but some subterfuge was in order. Some of the heroes, like Luca, were quite conspicuous and some subtlety was warranted. It seemed the political situation was sensitive, and so Luca used his magic to disguise his clothing a bit to appear more plain. They gained entrance to the palace through a side passage reached by way of the watergardens.

Entering the gardens through a wrought iron gate filled with Lyrian ivy and bushes filled with roses, Quentin heard a satisfied humming of familiar Beauclair nursery rhymes in the back of his mind somewhere. Róisín was harmonising with the ivy and roses, further establishing the personality that was locked in the blade.

The heroes were lead through a door into a plain corridor. Some of the heroes remembered the corridor from the time Emma went to find the source of the spring that fed the fountains and pools in the watergarden in order to bless it. They had gone down deep into the basement under the palace, but this time they took a winding staircase up to the second floor of the enormous building.

When they entered into a beautifully decorated corridor they were met by several guard stations. The guards at those stations saluted the lieutenant and they were granted access. James suggested that this may be part of the problem; the palace guard is completely unequipped to deal with more sophisticated, arcanist intruders who could impersonate people or even sneak in while invisible. It began to dawn on the lieutenant that with the rise in the potency of magic that the crownsguard had never updated their methods or protocols.

When the heroes entered the antechamber they found a lavishly decorated room where the queen could receive guests. A door lead to the queen’s chambers; behind that door the queen was fighting for her life, aided only by Dr. Arkenward. The heroes immediately began to investigate the room in the hopes of finding something that the people who came before them had missed. Emrys discovered a spy hole which had been drilled from the adjoining chambers which were used by the queen’s handmaid.

Once again the lieutenant was impressed by the acumen that the heroes was displaying and decided that it might be good to invite the heroes to investigate the queen’s chambers.

The queen’s chambers was much larger than the antechamber, lots of luxurious furniture and large windows with a view down Garamond hill. In a large, four-poster bed lay the queen, gaunt and sallow, with thinning hair, a deathly pallor and her veins clearly visible below her skin. Her eyes were closed and she was panting furiously, like a dog trying to cool off on a hot day. She was barely recognisable as the young monarch the heroes had met in the watergardens several months before.

At the foot of the bed, sitting cross legged on a cushioned bench, wrapped in a dark robe, Dr. Arkenward was gentle swaying back and forth while muttering to himself. He was clearly in a trance and expanding quite some energy with the ritual he was performing. Luca listened to what the man was saying, hoping to learn something of the ritual he was performing, but was astonished to find that the doctor was reciting a prayer of protection dedicated to Paladine.

The heroes investigated the room as meticulously as they had with the antechamber but were not able to find anything unexpected. They did notice that while Dr. Arkenward was performing a ritual, he was aware of what was happening around him, sometimes looking up to make eye contact with whoever approached the queen.

James asked Emrys and Luca whether they could investigate whether or not they could find anything magical in the chamber. Luca could, but it required a ritual of his own. When he completed it he became aware of the flows of magic all around him. He noticed that the doctor was a source of very strong abjuration magic which enveloped both him and the queen. Upon closer inspection he noticed that the queen was the source of very strong necromantic magic which was trying to force its way out.

It occurred to Luca that the doctor’s efforts of containing the necromancy to the queen might be exacerbating her condition and speeding up her decline, which cast a whole new light on the situation!