Tag: Conjunction

The Heroes of the White Eye: A Character Study

Introduction

The Heroes of the White Eye is a remarkable group of individuals, brought together by fate, who have overcome incredible challenges together against all odds. Initially the disparate individuals were thrown together to resolve a simple matter of a disrupted water supply on the estate of an enigmatic noble family, they went on to discover signs and portents of a new time of high magic, and with it a new start of a Conjunction of Planes.

The last conjunction was so long ago that only the very oldest surviving members of the longest living races could recall it. It was a time in which the fabric between realms became thin and demonic creatures spilled over to wreak havoc on the lands of men, elves and dwarves. It was called the Age of Fear, and it brought humanity on the brink of extinction before they harnessed the power of magic, allowing them to mount a defence against the hordes of demons. The Silver Crusade, a collaboration of the knightly orders of the Lance, Shield and Gryphon, counselled by the mysterious Senhadrim, a loose knit group of wizards and priests, defended humanity long enough for the conjunction come to an end and the last of the demons be defeated.

The heroes discovered powerful, ancient artifacts from the Age of Fear, each of which contained the long dormant spirit of one of the Senhadrim. They encountered strange servitor creatures called the skaven, a fierce, rat-like people whose purpose was to find these artifacts and bring them to their as of yet unknown masters.

The heroes travelled the kingdom of Lyria, finding clues about the conjunction, the crusade and the Senhadrim. They met interesting people and dangerous adversaries; Vadoma, the treacherous gypsy, Falka, the helpful scholar, Ulrikke, the Daerland noble, Ridley, the endearing deckswab, Syldarael, the tolerant healer, Martha, the jealous bigot, Strickland, the love-struck Magister, Cendelius, the vengeful terrorist, Liliana, the seductive instigator, and many, many more.

They travelled to a different realm and found a small army of crusaders, betrayed by a Senhadrim mage named Atilesceon, who had been corrupted by evil. Atilesceon’s cruelty lead him to curse the crusaders to replay a doomed battle scenario against a horde of demons over and over, leading to their eternal suffering. When the heroes found a way to break the curse, they ended up confronting and defeating Atilesceon and bringing the crusaders back from that realm, instantly gaining them the status of heroes.

In liberating these ancient crusaders and bringing them to the modern time, they managed to gain an understanding of the Age of Fear and learned that the conjunction occurred due to the waxing and waning of magic, which influenced the Seal of Divine Animus, which protected the realms of the ethereal mist from the realms of the elemental chaos and the astral sea. The seal was placed there by Tharizdun, a long lost god with a complicated mythology.

Throughout all of this, the heroes have remained unlikely companions. As they’ve learned more at what’s at stake, uncovering the legends, and separating fact from fiction, they’ve tried to discover possible ways of preventing another Age of Fear, or at least mobilising a defence against the coming conjunction before it is too late. Each has their own reasons for dedicating themselves, and their methods, motivations and styles differ wildly, but for now they continue to be bound to one another.

Astrid

It’s not easy to come to a clear understanding of Astrid’s personality, goals and motives. At the best of times she comes across as aloof or frivolous as her pendulum swings from long periods of silence, having few outspoken opinions or strong desires, and moments of extreme exuberance, often fuelled by alcohol. In the quiet moments she is as calm, quiet and reserved as she is loud, boisterous and borderline obnoxious in the moments where she’s not.

The two extremes of her mood seems to serve one thing particularly well; she is never requested or expected to talk about herself. As a result, it’s not clear why Astrid is in Lyria, why she has chosen to attach herself to the other heroes or why she eagerly sacrifices her own safety in order to step between the group and the danger which is heading their direction.

Even when she woke up one day to find that her eyes had turned bright golden, she never seemed to invite the other heroes to dare question or comment on that physical transformation; her aloof response making it seemingly difficult to bring up the subject. She is well-respected for her physical abilities, but is rarely asked for her opinion, which may reinforce a pre-existing notion she may have held that she would never be valued for her ideas, should she have any.

Her goals seem simple; she wants to be able to purchase a ship of her own. What she wants to do with that ship, or why she wants a ship, is not something her companions have ever asked her. She seems happy enough hiding behind the tired stereotype of a reaving Hellmarker to attempt to convince any of her companions that there’s more to her goals than that.

Emma

The priestess has defied expectations since she was a young girl and continued that tradition from the moment she went into the service of Lord Marcus together with the rest of the heroes. She chose a more thoughtful, less action-prone approach to problem solving which often clashed with others, especially James. That was not to say that she could not be forced into action, however, as she was quick to display against the Procyon when Cendelius lead them in his attack on the village of Allenham. She showed that she would not shy away from violence in order to stand up for what she believed in.

Thoughtful and observant, she was often very capable of quickly getting to the core of a person; sometimes so fast that the person under scrutiny had a hard time catching up, or even realise their façade had been breached. I believe that this lead to the frequent conflicts Emma had with James, who tried very hard to reinforce the cool exterior he had developed growing up on the Kingsport streets. Emma seemed frustrated and genuinely perplexed each time she was confronted with social subterfuge or obfuscation. It seemed to run counter to the truth she wanted to live by. Either that, or despite her keen insight into the people around her, she never truly understood people and found their idiosyncrasies foreign and alien.

She found comfort in the variety of ways in which Sedna touched life around her. The hopeful rebirth of spring, the growth it provided in summer, the way autumn brought the cycle to a close with a great cleansing and the way in which winter became harsh, cold and unforgiving. And it was this variability in the Goddess which made her naturally distrustful of Muirgheal when she started to explore her connection to the trident; it was extreme, unyielding and dogmatic and it ran completely counter to Emma’s own personality and who she understood Sedna to be.

There were other forces surrounding the trident which she found invasive and had difficulty understanding, again frustrating her ability to quickly get to the heart of a person or situation that she was so accustomed to. While evocative, the trident came with too many strings attached and she soon decided to disinvest her from the weapon and the spirit within.

As she divorced herself from the trident she also found that she struggled with many of the things that she and the other Heroes of the White Eye uncovered; about the nature of the world, the coming Age of Fear and her position therein. She decided to divorce herself from the group, focus herself on her faith and evaluate what her position within the grand order of things was going to be moving forward.

Emrys

Either Emrys is the most complex character in our group of heroes, or he is the simplest. At the risk of overthinking things, I will assume the former, rather than the latter. It is going to be difficult to start the analysis, either way.

Born into a tribe of aen adhar, or People of the Moon, who are notoriously religious, both his father, Fingir, an aen adhar, as well as his mother, Catriona, a human who had estranged from her family, had fallen in with a type of religious zealotry that could consume a person. They followed the teachings of Mohiam, a Sehanine Moonbow prophet and believed that their tribe had an important role to play in the future of the Verdant Kingdoms.

In fact, both parents believed that Emrys was to be a child of prophecy, which would explain his name. In the elder speech, Emrys means “immortal one”; a name not given frivolously, I imagine. When Catriona died right after giving birth, against all expectation, Fingir was struck with enormous grief leading him to defer the rearing of Emrys to the rest of the tribe.

Subjected to the tribe’s zealotry, Emrys proved to be a less than ideal student. He was subjected to hours of training which he described as arduous. The spiritual leader of the tribe, an elf named Voriel, disappeared without a trace during a training session and the tribe was thrown in disarray. It wasn’t the first time that strange things happened around Emrys and he was quickly asked to leave as the tribe had given up believing that he Emrys was going to be the promised child that they were awaiting.

I tell you that in order to conclude the following; considering Emrys’ background and upbringing, which I think was likely to be considerably harder than he has ever shared with anyone, it is surprising that he has maintained such a happy-go-lucky, laissez-faire attitude to most things. He has either leveraged what must undoubtedly have been a very traumatic upbringing into an amazing psychological bedrock, or he is possibly the most ruthless case of psychopathy that I’ve ever witnessed.

He has womanised his way through most of the Riverlands and has been keen to continue that habit while in Kingsport. He has developed a penchant for the young daughters of nobility and has left quite a bit of carnage in his wake. One wonders whether he doesn’t find some perverse pleasure in using the station of these women for his own ends only to compromise them to the point of reputational ruin. His involvement with these women has assured that they will never ascend to the position that was expected of them at birth.

Does that sound familiar?

He has now been able to infect the heart and mind of one of the most influential young noble women in the kingdom. Gods give her the strength to withstand him.

When confronted with some of the origins of his tribe by meeting Lauriel Skycaller, the Senhadrim priestess, Mohiam cultist and self-confessed mother of the zealotry that has ruled his tribe for millennia, he seemed detached and distant from her. Even as he inhabited the body of her lover and soon-to-be husband, Benedict McAllister, he did not hesitate to send Lauriel into the woods to slow down the onslaught of demons portalling onto the battlefield and ultimately sending her to her death.

Of course, I might be completely misreading him. One thing that suggests that I might be wrong is the relationship he has built up with Toruviel, the Senhadrim who is inhabiting the moonblade he carries. Legends say that moonblades only graces the hands of those who stand for noble elven virtues; love, life, creation and the arts. Perhaps he has been able to fool Toruviel as he has fooled lady Annabella, who knows?

James

To most people looking in from the outside it would seem that James wears his membership to one of the Heroes of the White Eye with the least amount of pride. I find myself wondering whether that’s because he thinks that what he did isn’t worthy of hero worship, or whether he is uncomfortable with the idea that he’s becoming one of them.

To most people looking in from the outside it would seem like James had a pretty tough childhood growing up on the streets of Kingsport. The frail, half-elf bastard to an immigrant who sold her body for silver stags, raised among whores and ruffians. But once you get to know him you’ll realise that despite his environment, his upbringing in no way held him back from having a happy childhood. He cares deeply for a mother who probably hasn’t always had the time to properly care for him; he’s developed relationships with several men in his life that could be described as father/son or teacher/student relationships; and despite his slight stature and elven heritage, he’s managed to carve out a place among his community.

And yet, he seems to be having trouble accepting the relationships that he’s forged with the rest of the heroes. I’d wager he thinks Luca is deranged, Quentin is misguided and Emrys is unfocused. Astrid seems to be the only one he genuinely cares for, but mostly as a drinking buddy who doesn’t ask too many questions. He purposefully keeps himself from investing in his relationships with the others, either because he doesn’t think they’re worth it, or he thinks they won’t last.

The proposition of him not thinking the relationships with the others aren’t worth it seems flawed considering all that they’ve accomplished together. It is clear that his continued involvement with the rest of the Heroes of the White Eye is benefiting him and that they have a lot to offer him. So it must be that he feels that the relationships won’t last. He’s unwilling to commit because he knows that all of them are regularly engaging in very dangerous work which will likely get one or all of them killed. Does he want to keep his relationships “professional” so that he won’t have to deal with the likelihood of losing them?

It would explain James’ caution at accepting the Arms of the Senhadrim. He has seen that the weapons have subtly changed their wielders and he doesn’t like the idea of giving up control, even if the potential power gain is significant. This, in turn, would explain his disdain for Emma and her dedication to a higher power; arbitrary rules of a divine kind which promise an undisclosed reward after death just mean you’re a pawn in a celestial army, controlled by a deity that sets the rules. Equally, Quentin is hostage to the trappings and expectations of nobility and chivalry, which might even be worse. And Luca is the pawn of… who knows what, but practically no different than Emma and her goddess, though likely much less benevolent.

James values his freedom. The Steady Hand gave him that freedom at the cost of the kickbacks he was paying to the day master. When his mother became an unwilling pawn of the Cult of the Dark Queen and was manipulated to turn against the Steady Hand, he found himself at odds with the guild. Despite finding a way out of the situation and saving his mother’s life in the process, he found that the Steady Hand was never again going to be the home for him it had been in years past. He also found that his mother required care, which had never happened before. She became a burden and perhaps even a liability, which eroded the freedom he valued so much. He quickly found another place that would take her off his hands, leaving him once again unburdened.

Perhaps that’s why he like Astrid as much as he does; there’s no burden there.

At the moment I think James is probably feeling a little unmoored. He has no clear goal, no clear direction. He can’t go back to burglary; he’s come too far and seen too much for that. But he also doesn’t necessarily want to make a habit out of going on quests and gathering more titles like the Hero of the White Eye. He’s stuck between longing for a simpler existence and a duty to act on those things that’s he’s learned.

Luca

Luca considers himself to be many things that he probably is not.

He grew up the son of pig farmers who was gifted with a great intellect, a strong personality but without the strength of willpower to persevere. I suspect he became profoundly lonely in the Elder Foothills, unable to connect to his family or his community and started admiring the scholars that would come through from civilised places, on their way to study the ancient ruins in the region. He probably had a conversation with one of them as an expedition passed through and realised he could connect with them on an intellectual level.

And so he started reading more books. He got obsessed with them. He started considering himself a scholar, and he could have become one if he had applied himself well, but he never did. As he read more he also became more frustrated with his modest origin. He changed the way he dressed, changed the way he spoke, changed the way he acted, all to be more in line with who he wanted to be.

Supposedly in order to get access to more books he was convinced to consume mushrooms which he claims to have given him visions. Those visions showed him a dreadful glimpse of the future, one that he could prevent from occurring. It lead him to the discovery of a book which taught him how to use magic. The circumstances are all a little vague, but afterwards he was no longer a scholar, instead he was a mage.

He finally worked up the nerve to leave the Elder Foothills and I think that cutting ties with that environment which reminded him of who he was allowed him the freedom to tell anyone that he was who he wanted to be. He has also started gathering and gaining more magical power, still maintaining this fantasy that he’s a studious mage. All the while, he’s been taking shortcuts and compromising himself (and possibly others) to gather that power, as is the tendency of those weak of will.

He’s been lying to others, but more importantly he’s been lying to himself; he’s convinced that he’s the only one who realises what is coming and the only one who can stop it. Another lie that he’s told himself is that the ends justify the means, and as such he has made some dangerous and questionable decisions lately. All for the greater good.

I’ve been surprised at the way that the rest of Luca’s companions have been willing to overlook the obvious problems and delusions he’s dealing with. Perhaps they realise but find that the power he wields useful, however ill-gained it may be, and are willing to put up with him.

Eventually, Luca will have to pay the price for what the choices he’s made, the things dhe’s done and the power he’s gained.

Quentin

The most junior member of the Heroes of the White Eye, the easiest observation to make about Quentin is that his noble birth has afforded him a life of relative luxury and privilege. It makes him a bit out of touch with the rest of the heroes at times, but it also allows him a different perspective and avenue that the others may have missed.

Hailing from a small noble family without much political or financial influence, it seems the precarious position that House Morvrayne finds itself in has placed an extraordinary burden on the shoulders of its heir. Initially setting out to find a legendary sword of incalculable historical and cultural value which would earn him the right to marry the daughter of an influential noble and positioning his house in a much better spot in the Beauclair peerage.

When, against all odds, that seemingly impossible quest turned out favourably and he didn’t just retrieve the legendary sword, but also became one of the Heroes of the White Eye, gaining popularity and renown in Lyria, the young knight seemed eager to leverage that success into something more. He is keen on following in the footsteps of the legendary knights and cavaliers who joined the crusade to protect humanity during the Age of Fear.

Whether Quentin’s new goal of restarting a new crusade is born from opportunism or idealism are unclear to me at the moment. But for now it seems he has thrown his lot in with the rest of the companions.

He respects James, though is having a hard time relating to him due to the wildly different environs they grew up in. He has big plans that James doesn’t recognise his roll in, and probably wouldn’t approve of that roll even if he did. James disapproves of much of what Quentin does and thinks, and I suspect it won’t be long before Quentin falls prey to the same exhaustion that overwhelmed Emma.

Up until the moment that Emrys introduced Quentin to Andrew Selkirk, the troubadour who came to investigate the rumours of Fleur’s resurfacing, I don’t think Quentin had any strong opinions of Emrys, positive or negative. The two have never held a conversation that wasn’t about pleasantries or frivolities. Quentin has confessed his ambition of a new crusade to Emrys, and found that Emrys was keen on being there to support him. This will likely remain the basis for their friendship; whether Emrys is able and willing to further Quentin’s goals.

As for Luca; it won’t be long before Quentin will come to understand the full weight of Luca’s choices and the possible price that will need to be paid for them. It will be at that point where we’ll see whether Quentin’s opportunism will win out over his idealism; he will have to make a choice about what kind of man he is, and whether he’s made of ruthless ambition, or romantic ideals of chivalry and nobility.

I wonder whether Quentin will ever seek out the crusaders he helped to rescue and have a true, honest and open discussion about what the crusade meant, and what it cost the crusaders and the people they protected. Was the crusade a benevolent organisation who protected the weak from the wickedness of the demonic hordes, or was the crusade enforced on those they protected, whether they asked for protection or not? What was the price the crusaders and those they protected had to pay in order to keep humanity safe, and will Quentin be willing to pay that price? Will he be able to make the hard choices which will pit his ambitions against his ideals? Is he simply the entitled noble who is playing hero until such a time that the hero’s role becomes too difficult a burden to shoulder?

Departing Kingsport

Previously, James awoke from his days-long unconsciousness in the servant’s quarters of the Sheridan estate, tended to by an old friend, a priest of Pholtus. He remembered nothing after snooping around the library in the Sheridan manor and vaguely remembers something happening to him there. Benten was there for his wake up as well, who shared a few details of what had happened during his unconsciousness. James found a strange, arcane burn mark on the inside of his right hand which Benten claimed belonged to the lost Lord Destan. Benten suggested he make his way to Kingsport to catch up with the others before they departed for Pinefall to find Lord Destan.

When James returned to Kingsport he quickly found the rest of the adventurers who were trying to wrap up some loose ends in the capital and find out some more information which might be useful to their mission to find Lord Destan. They visited the docks to speak to a Sheridan Trading Co. representative, visited the Bromley estate in Ravensbourne to speak to their majordomo, and visited the College of Bards to find out a bit more about the Crimson Tower.

Seventh Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

In the late afternoon, James arrived at the butcher shop at Fleet Street run by the Daymaster. He was sitting out front, at a small table, trying to escape the stench and heat of the shop. Men with fast, knife hands and cold, dead eyes were standing guard at a distance. They spoke about what happened at the Sheridan estate, and the Sheridans specifically. The Daymaster seemed very interested in hearing about the supposed portal that was found in the catacombs underneath Lynnecombe and seemed quite concerned with artefacts and antiquities which may have been recovered.

Eventually, the Daymaster instructed James to continue travelling with the other adventurers to recover Lord Destan. His interest in the Sheridans seemed to be more than a passing one, and he explained that there was an upset in the balance of the underworld, caused by a mysterious grouped which called themselves The Penumbra, and the Daymaster implied that he thought that House Sheridan might be behind the group.

He told James to be mindful of artefacts, ancient books and antiquities and gave him an enchanted bag which would help him gather and hide some of the things he might find along the way. James, in return, paid the Daymaster the kickback that he was owed on all the work he did. He then proceeded to continue to the Wanderer to catch up with the others, but not before loading up the bag he was given with enough food to last him a month.

The rest of the night was spent at a table in front of the Careless Wanderer. James was paying for chilled drinks, which Astrid eagerly downed to the point where she became quite intoxicated. All the while, James was asking the others about the details of what happened in the Lynnecombe catacombs.

Emma had picked up the new platinum rings she required to place divine wards on any who wore such a ring. She gave one to each of the others in the group, but she was one short because of James’ reemergence. Astrid parted with hers and gave it to James, feeling confident that he would benefit more from it than she would.

An agreement was made to meet in front of the Wanderer at sunrise so that they could start travelling before the punishment of the midsummer’s heat would become too much. Lauryn and Durham suggested staying at the Inn at the Crossroads, which they could make before supper, and they recommended taking rest at the Seat of Friendship, a glade halfway between Kingsport and the Inn at the Crossroads.

James departed to his abode in Kingsport, Emma and Astrid both took up a bed in the common room, with Astrid being quite drunk at that point. Emrys went back to his room and concluded that he had forgotten to give the large chest of valuables to Luca, like the adventurers had agreed upon over drinks, seeing as how it was likely that Emrys would be visited that evening. He decided to take a few handfuls of coins and put them in his own pouches and hide the chest underneath his bed instead.

Luca visited the House of the Raven Queen across the small square from the Wanderer. He entered the large building only to find it accessible but empty on the inside. He walked up towards the altar, rows of pews and unadorned, grey pillars, and sat down in one of the pews. He was soon joined by an elderly man with a neatly trimmed, steely grey beard. He was wearing a dark robe ruffled around the shoulders by hundreds of dark feathers. The man politely asked Luca to depart. While he was welcome, the staff he carried was not. Luca left without resisting.

Lady Annabella of House Waxley showed up by the time that Emrys had already settled down for the night. She was wearing what she probably understood to be understated, commoner’s clothing, the quality of which had probably drawn a lot of gazes on her way to the Wanderer. Emrys hoped that she had not gone without a guard.

She was carrying a bucket with a bottle of wine in it, together with two delicate, elven crystal glasses. She told Emrys to chill the wine, which he did using a minor cantrip. Lady Annabella didn’t waste any time and proceeded to undress and instructed Emrys to do the same.

Later, when the were laying together in bliss, sipping on the wine, enjoying the cool evening air, they spoke about Lady Annabella’s position at court and the pressures that come along with representing her house while serving as the queen’s handmaiden. Suddenly, they heard a blood-curdling scream coming from the room directly below theirs; Luca’s room.

While Emrys and Lady Annabella were entertaining themselves upstairs, Luca was reading in his small room. As the temperature outside slowly dropped, the wind coming in over the gulf was picking up. The breeze was playing with the candles that Luca was using to read by, casting strange shadows on the wall. Just as his eyelids started to droop and sleep was about to take him, he noticed a large figure in the shadows of his small room

The figure explained that they were the one to give Luca his arcane powers, but that they would come at the cost of his obedience. It also became clear to Luca that this figure had been following and manipulating his life for a long while. Their instructions to Luca were to make sure to remain Blackstar’s master, and continuing the search for artefacts and books from the Age of Fear, ominously stating that it would help in “the wars to come.”

Eventually, mildly frustrated by Luca’s lack of knowledge, reached out his hand and told Luca to take it, so that they could show Luca all that he needed to know. Luca did and with the touch the knowledge of ages was revealed to him in a violent way which left him screaming a primal scream.

When Emrys reached Luca’s room he used a canister of water and a simple cantrip to freeze the lock on his door in order to break it open. Luca was alright, but very shaken. He told Emrys he was having night terrors. When Emrys went back to his room, he found that Lady Annabella had departed.

Eight Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

The following day Emma and James were very punctual. James found Emma taking care of the cart and horses outside of the Wanderer together with Wojciech, the Silesian stable master. It took a while for the others to get ready. Emrys mended the damage he caused to the door to Luca’s room with a simple cantrip. Astrid was trying to wake up through the fog of her hangover, and Emma and James went up to Emrys’ room to pick up the chest of values.

Astrid laid her great sword down in the cart and laid down underneath a blanket to shield her from the sun. James and Emma sat up front and Luca and Emrys were in the cart together with Astrid. An hour past sunrise the group finally departed going out of the Eastern Gate.

The adventurers travelled east on the Silesian road, running close enough to the coast to hear the waves, hear the gulls and occasionally see the cliffs. The route was dotted with small villages and farmsteads.

Around the time that everyone’s stomachs started rumbling a signpost indicated toward a small path leading north which read “Seat of Friendship”. A few minutes up the forested path it opened up into a large, beautiful glade with a humongous oak tree in the middle providing shade to the entire glade. The oak was a hundred feet tall and twenty feet in circumference with a thick canopy of green, orange and red trees.

The glade was the host to two score of people who were taking shelter from the midsummer heat. Families, travellers and small groups of people. Mostly human, some elves and halflings. A notable figure in the glade was Ciarán, the Kaedwyni hierophant who, together with several other druids, took care of the glade and the oak tree, which they call Gheolgothis. A barrel-chested man with a red and black chequered skirt on, a sweat stained shirt and a black mitre adorned with bits of deer antler. He made sure to talk to each and every group of visitors to the glade.

There was a lone knight by the name of Ser Hammond of Dunashire, whose horse carried a bundle of Vermillion gilded armour. A nobleman by the name of Lord Fabian Fetterling was travelling from Farcorner to Kingsport together with a group of guards. A group of three szygani, two men Danior and Manfri, and a woman named Vadoma, were sitting together, away from the rest, sharing a bottle of cheap wine, playing music while speaking together in a strange language.

Lastly, atop a wooden stump stood a learned looking man by the name of Prementhine Shakeslock. He wore high quality, but sober clothing, with an embroidered, silken doublet of black with a purple pattern, a leather double belt and a simple blue pair of breeches. His boots were worn but well cared for. He had a neatly trimmed beard, streaked with grey and he was wearing a brown cap, covering a balding head. His belt held many pouches and a large quiver filled with several scrolls. He was addressing the people of the glade;

Verily, there is nothing so hideous as the monsters, so contrary to nature, known as the warlock, for they are the offspring of foul sorcery and devilry. They are rogues without virtue, conscience or scruple, true diabolical creations, fit only for killing and corruption. There is no place amidst honest men for such as they. You need look no further than the subversive way in which they masquerade as mages. But they are not mages, for the source of their powers is evil and corrupt. The magic the mages wield is a tool, evil only in evil hands, while the very source of the warlock’s magic is itself evil. This is why the warlock is now masquerading as a mage! Even going so far as to carry hefty tomes along from which they pretend to study. They have no need of magical formulae like the mage does, this is simply a prop in their disguise.

So I say unto thee, good fellows, to be wary and mindful of witches, fortune tellers (he makes a quick glance to the szygani), pellars and unusual wise women, for their abilities, if not a preposterous sham, might elsewise be bestowed on them by a dark and fiendish patron! Report them to the proper authorities so that we might be swift in culling the threat that they pose to all of our mortal souls. The Time of Fear will surely come again if we do not stay vigilant.

Ciaran: “How are we to recognise the warlock from the mage, good sir? What prevents us from making false accusations?”

Shakeslock: “First and foremost it lies in their actions and demeanour. If they use their magic for good purposes, then you may rest easy. If not, then further investigation is required.”

Fetterling: “There are plenty of mages and sorcerers who wield their magic for selfish and nefarious goals. What’s to prevent people from mistaking them for warlocks and burning them at the stake? It’s a dangerous message you are spreading.”

Shakeslock: “Warlock or not, evil must be brought to justice, no matter the shape it takes.”

Vadoma: “But that is not what people take away from your warning. You are further deepening the already existing suspicions that people have of those they deem contemptible.”

Shakeslock: “Poppycock!”

Hammond: “Not so. If the Time of Fear is to come again, surely we must be vigilant, but was also must stand united.”

Shakeslock: “People merely need to turn to the crownsguard and report their suspicions. Those who are innocent will be acquitted.”

Vadoma: “Those who are born into a group burdened with collective guilt sprung forth from misunderstanding, superstition and suspicion…”

Fetterling: “…you are already defending yourself even before accusations have been made against you. That doesn’t seem becoming of an innocent person.”

The two szygani men stand up, menacingly and Lord Fabian’s guards do the same. Ciaran steps front and centre and with a booming voice says; “None shall defy the peace this hallowed glade,” while holding up his hands. “Geolgothis will not abide it. Sit back down and enjoy the shade as friends. We will need one another when the real war comes.”

Luca decided to talk to Shakeslock and learned that he was a lecturer at the Bournemouth Academy specialising in Black Magic, specifically the research in its nature and the defence against it. He himself was not an arcanist. When learning that Luca was on his way to Bournemouth Academy, he warned Luca that the academy was a nest of vipers because of the influential Faculty of Statescraft drawing many of Daerlan’s nobility. Shakeslock suggested that Luca find a library by the name of Faulkner when he arrives, citing the person to be an excellent researcher. When the man excused himself and decided to continue on his trip to Kingsport, Luca decided to follow him but eventually couldn’t catch up and decided to turn back to the glade.

In the meantime, Emma decided to take one of the ruby-like crystals and approached the group of szygani. Vadoma was the one to talk to Emma and they talked a little bit about religion. Emma described Sedna, while Vadoma explained that they were followers of Maškar, the Bloodmoon and paid reverence to its siblings Lačhi, the Silvermoon, and Nasul, the Darkmoon.

Emma asked the szygani to take a look at the ruby-like crystal and asked for them to appraise it. The gem exchanged hands and all three of the szygani spoke to one another briefly. They concluded that it was likely a beautiful piece of crystal. Vadoma said she would make jewellery out of it. Emma and Vadoma decided to barter for the gem and offered a simple silver chain with a pendant with the Bloodmoon on it. Emma asked whether the pendant would hold some sway with other szygani and Vadoma confirmed that it would. The made the trade. James briefly joined in the conversation to verify that the szygani really didn’t have any extra knowledge about the gem, which they seemingly didn’t have.

Before that, James and Emrys had stayed with Astrid and had been visited by the druid Ciarán for a quick chat, during which it became clear that the irises of Astrid’s eyes, had turned a bright golden yellow. She didn’t seem to have any idea as to how or why that had happened.

Eventually, the group got the horses together and put them before the cart and started travelling further up the Silesian road. After several hours of travel, the adventurers heard the pleas for help from two merchants who were beset upon by half a dozen armed guards.

The adventurers didn’t hesitate and decided to get involved and save the two merchants from the armed guards. Astrid drew her great sword and dashed into action with little regard of her own safety. James sneaked around the battlefield and frustrated two of the armed guards who were at a distance firing arrows into the group of adventurers — and wounding Emrys rather grievously. Luca used his arcane powers to devastating effect and Emma also engaged and also made sure that Emrys and Astrid were healed when four of the armed guards were cut down and the remaining two had retreated from the conflict.

The two merchants, Oliver and Trent were incredibly grateful. They explained that they had come from Bournemouth and had a rendez-vous with a buyer at the Inn at the Crossroads who was running late. This meant that the deal was done much later in the day, but they insisted on travelling to Kingsport, where they have their business, the Càrcerian Trading  Company. About an hour into their journey the guards they had hired decided to renegotiate their contract due to having to travel at night. The negotiations had broken down and the guards had decided to simply take the merchants’ earnings of the sale they made.

It was their intention to continue travelling to Kingsport, but the adventurers managed to convince them to come back to the inn with them because there were still two guards out there who got away. And so the entire group went towards the Inn at the Crossroads.

Running Errands, Making Friends and Gaining Information in Kingsport

Previously, the adventurers returned to Kingsport and spent the night at the Careless Wanderer where they spoke with other travellers and gained some sense of what’s going on the kingdom. The next day they ran some errands in preparation for their departure to Bournemouth and discovered that the rubies they retrieved from the catacombs underneath Lynnecombe were in fact highly unusual crystals. When paying a visit to the Sacred Baths, Emma was informed that a noble house wanted to have a well on their new property in Kingsport blessed, and it turned out to be a ruse by the Queen Isabella Valois of Lyria, who wanted the priestess to bless the watergardens behind the royal palace. Emma made a powerful friend, Emrys met an influential lover, and Luca met a mysterious abjurer.

Seventh Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

After the visit to the royal watergardens the adventurers were once again dropped off at the Sacred Baths. Emma decided to stay there to reflect on the afternoon while Emrys and Luca decided to pay a visit to the College of Bards in Sevenoaks. Astrid was bored so she decided to join them.

Making their way across the Knightsbirdge into the Northside ward they were surprised to bump into James on the corner of Tiverton street right in front of the Silver Cross tavern. Shocked at his reappearance, the four of them popped into the tavern for a drink and a discussion. It seemed that James was quite familiar with the place, which Emrys soon discovered, by the subtle way men and women came up to proposition Astrid, to be a brothel.

James explained that the night he disappeared he had gotten up and sneaked into the Sheridan library to snoop around. He doesn’t quite remember what happened, but he knows that something happened to him in the library. He doesn’t know how he came to be in the catacombs, nor does he remember how he got a strange burn mark on the inside of his right hand, spanning both the palm of his hand as well as several fingers. The others said that they had not noticed the mark on his hand when they found James in the catacombs, even though they examined him for injuries.

Luca examined the arcane mark on James’ hand and concluded that there was both an element of abjuration as well as necromancy involved in the magic which created the mark. James indicated that it was his intention to join the others in finding Lord Destan and he seemed eager to help gather information.

It was decided upon James’ suggestion to find the Sheridan representative in Kingsport who managed their mercantile enterprises might have talked to Lord Destan when he was on his way to Bournemouth. They found the harbour master and James bribed one of the assistants to direct him to the Sheridan representative who kept a small office on the docks near The Salt.

The man they found in the office, together with a handful of clerks and associates, was Caius of Lynnecombe, a neat and soberly dressed gentleman of middle years. He told the group that Lord Destan had come through the port with three guards on the day of the Greengrass festival and had departed at the end of the day on the Squall-Eater a ship that regularly sailed between the capital and Bournemouth.

An idea was formed that Lord Destan may have stopped by the Library of Ioun in the Ravensbourne ward. It was a part of the Bromley estate and run by Lord Caedmon, the head of House Bromley himself. The adventurers decided to pay the library a visit. They made their way north from the Docks, across the Lynbridge, across Steward square, and down the Elysian street to Ravensbourne. They passed the Daerlan Embassy and found the entrance to the library where they were confronted with a care-taker who had no interest in allowing them access to the library. He referred them to the Bromley manor, which was close by.

Once there, they noticed that the Ravensbourne district had a lot of patrolling crownsguard, which meant they had to result to subtle intimidation of the Bromley house guard to allow them to speak to the majordomo of the house hold. Luca was allowed onto the estate grounds and spoke to Hendrik of Grimsdown, the majordomo, who could inform him that Lord Destan had not called to visit in quite a few months. Another dead end.

The next stop was going to be the College of Bards where Emrys had a friend, Lord Andrew of House Selkirk, who was attending. It was Emrys’ hope that he could find out more about the Crimson Tower and its history and any other information relevant to their quest of finding Lord Destan. The adventurers made their way down North Street, towards the North Gate. Right before the gate, they turned left along the ramparts and quickly found the entrance to an amphitheatre that served as the college’s stage and, when not in use for performances, a place for students to sit, write, practice and debate.

After having spoken to a small group of people and aided one of the students in improving the poem she had been working on, Emrys was reunited with his friend Andrew who seemed equally jovial, frivolous and flamboyant as the sorcerer. Andrew admitted he had no knowledge that could aid them, but quickly got Emrys in touch with a slender, sullen looking man in dark clothing. He preferred the shade over the punishing afternoon sun and spoke in a thick Beauclair accent but was able to give Emrys some background information on the legend of the Crimson Tower.

By this point Luca, James and Astrid had departed. Luca went to find a bookshop while James had some personal errands to run. Astrid decided to go back to the Careless Wanderer.

The sullen Beauclair man told Emrys that the reason why the tale of the Crimson Tower was not well known in bard circles is because there was not hero, no positive outcome, no catharsis and no moral of the story that people could draw inspiration from. It was bleak, defeatist and ultimately a very tragic tale.

What Emrys did learn was that the member of the Silver Crusade which had betrayed the knights and lured them into defeat was a member of the Senhadrim, the mysterious council of scholars, mages, priests and elders who fought struggled side by side with the knights and against the fiends. He also learned that the devil prince who had orchestrated it all was called Mammon.

Before Emrys departed to make his way towards the Careless Wanderer, the sullen Beauclais was Adrien de Rouleau, better known as Le Papillon, the headmaster of the college.

Meanwhile, Luca had found a small bookstore called Adria’s Novel Idea, which was filled with stacks of books. It was run by an elderly gentleman by the name of Calford who had to disappoint Luca, who was looking for a small fortune in exquisite paper and ink which he wanted to use in his magecraft. They spoke a while and Luca decided to come back another day to go through Calford’s collection of books.

The Royal Ruse

Previously, the adventurers had tried to distract the Sheridan estate from the Kaedwyni orcs’ escape from the stables by performing a religious ceremony honouring Bartosz, performed by Emma. This allowed the orcs to break out of the stables and get a significant head start before getting discovered by one of the hounds and the guards going in pursuit.

This lead to a standoff on the road to Lynnecombe, atop a bridge crossing high above a Lyn tributary. Things moved really fast after Captain Mollen ordered the orcs to throw down their arms, which the orcs, especially Garr, refused to do. Bartosz, Dame Julie and Dame Madeline had manoeuvred themselves between the guards and the orcs. Luca used his magic to scare Mollen and one of the guards, the other guards reacted by letting their bolts fly towards the orcs, but struck Bartosz instead. The orcs jumped from the bridge into the river below.

Sixth Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

After having received the coin, the cart and the two horses that were promised them – one a Lyrian chestnut mare, the other a Silesian palomino mare – the adventurers headed south towards Kingsport. After two hours, late into the evening, the city came into view. Lady Commander Miranda Ravensbourne, commander of the city’s crownsguard, was seen soaring high above the city on her griffon, Frostfeather. The adventurers made it into the city before the gates were closed for the night, and headed for the Careless Wanderer.

Upon arrival, Wojciech, the Silesian stable master took care of the two horses for five pennies per horse, but said the cart would have to remain outside, since the space in the stables was limited. He said that Ramsey, the cook, would probably still be able to rustle up some food, and that Durham could provide them with drinks. He recommended trying the fruit liquor that he and Durham had been experimenting with in the basement.

Inside the evening was at its peak with most people already deep in their cups. Lauryn arranged the lodgings – the common room for both Emma and Astrid, a simple private room for Luca and a luxury room overlooking the House of the Raven Queen for Emrys. Ramsey got some of the last scratchings from the kitchen, Durham got everyone a fruit liquor and Emma purchased a bottle of Erveluce, the expensive wine that Durham had introduced her to several days before.

Emrys decided to regale the remaining visitors at the Careless Wanderer with music and a tale of the mysterious catacombs underneath Lynnecombe. He made sure to include the Skaven and the Lyrian Knights, but not make mention of the Kaedwyni orcs. In the meantime Emma was observing the reaction of the crowd, noticing that the name of Ser Arman drew some boos, while Dame Julie’s name caused a cheer to erupt in the room.

Luca decided to join a group of veteran travellers at their table with some drinks, thinking he could strike up a conversation after hearing some of the rumours that they were discussing. The leader of the group introduced himself as Arnout Coehoorn, a merchant. He introduced his right hand man, Steffen Skaggs. The rest he didn’t bother to introduce, leading Luca to conclude that they were either help or guards. Luca adapted his accent to fit that of a Lyrian from the Elder Foothills, since that was part of the rumour that he had overheard them talking about.

The different rumours that came to the adventurers’ attention:

  • House Radowan and its banners moved to stand in open rebellion to the crown, withholding its dues and refusing to levy taxes from their people until the crown commited aid to protecting the kingdom’s eastern border from the encroaching threat of the savage races coming from Silesia. The house was supported by the houses from the Mazurian Hills, the Elder Foothills and by House Courtenay. It was fiercely opposed by the Ashenvale and Westershire houses, most prominently by House Grey.
  • Strange bipedal rat creatures had been spotted near ruins throughout the kingdom. Near Eastray, in the Mazurian Hills, south of Fulcaster, north-east of Woodbury and especially in the Elder Foothills.
  • The Plains of Strife continued to see skirmishes between the Lyrian troops and invaders believed to come from Daerlan. The expansionist empire denied that the invaders were their troops or were there on the orders of the empire. House Grey, ever the patriots, committed more forces, as did House Ravensbourne, Bromley, Lockwood and Blackwell.

Eventually, the adventurers decided to call it an evening and make their way to their respective quarters for some much deserved rest.

Seventh Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

The following morning the adventurers gathered for a simple breakfast and decided to run some errands. Emma wanted to invest some of the platinum pieces that they were given by House Sheridan to fashion rings which would allow her to ward the wearers of the rings through the power of her goddess. Emrys saw it as a good opportunity to look for a scabbard befitting for a sword like Toruviel. Emrys also wanted to drop by the College of Bards to visit a friend. After learning that the College of Bards might have some historians that Luca could speak to, he was also interested in coming along.

It was decided that the adventurers would stay in Kingsport for one extra day and leave early the following morning. Just as they were about to depart, Magda, the blind lady who owned the Careless Wanderer approached Emma and informed her that Dagmær of Hammerstrand, the devotee of Sedna who runs the Sacred Baths had left a message at the inn that her presence was requested at the Sacred Baths. The adventurers decided that their first stop would be the Southside Ward to see about the rings, scabbard, and while they were there, to see about appraising the rubies they had found in the catacombs.

The Southside market square was bustling filled with the little stalls of the different crafters that made the Southside ward their home.

Emma found Dervan, a young, apprenticing goldsmith who had completed his technical training and was now being taught how to deal with customers. He would be able to take the platinum pieces she was offering, melt them down and fashion four rings from them, simple and adorned only with a small pattern of water droplets. He could prepare the ring within the hour, and if she was happy with the quality of his work, could finish the rest of the rings by the end of the day.

Meanwhile, Emrys had found the stall of Lyandra Wildrunner, an elven leatherworker who was fascinated by the blade that Emrys showed her. Her enthusiasm lead to a crowd forming around the sorcerer and soon it caught the attention of a barrel-chested dwarf who seemed to command must respect in the market square. His name was Dagran Forgewright, and the crowd parted before him as he made his way over. A young orc walked in his wake, which startled the adventurers, but didn’t seem to startle anyone else on the square. Dagran asked to take a look at the blade and gave his nod of approval and departed, taking the orc with him. Lyandra ended up showing Emrys several beautiful scabbards and he chose a finely crafted leather scabbard and requested there to be a small sign of a crescent moon embossed in the leather, which Lyandra immediately recognised as the symbol of Sehanine.

When Dagran Forgewright had departed, Astrid came to the conclusion that she might invest some of the coin she had earned in two new hand-axes. The last ones she had gifted to the Kaedwyni orcs, and she would need a replacement set. She set off in pursuit of the dwarven master craftsman.

Luca had stayed close to Emma and managed to get in contact with Eryka, a jeweller who was happy to appraise the rubies they had retrieved from the catacombs. She lead both Luca and Emma to a small shop nearby the market square so that they could conduct the appraisal in more privacy. The store turned out to be very small, with an open back which looked out over a communal courtyard where all the other shops shared a working space. There were several stone cutters working away behind Eryka’s shop, cutting gems and polishing stones.

She poured the two dozen rubies out over a sheet of black velvet and took up a spying glass to look at one more closely. To everyone’s surprise she concluded that these weren’t rubies, but likely to be crystals.

Eryka called out of the back across the courtyard for a man named Eustace. A grey-haired man with an elaborate moustache and thick mutton chops and a fat belly came over. He was wearing a stained leather apron and he was asked to take a look at the stones in order to see if he could recognise what kind of crystals they were. He, unfortunately was unable to identify the curious stones. Eryka offered to do more research if the Luca and Emma were willing to leave one of the crystal in her care. They agreed, and the crystal was locked away in a strongbox.

It was time for Emma to head for the Sacred Baths of Sedna. They were in the right ward so it was only a short walk from the market on the Street of Spices. Upon arrival, Luca decided not to enter, but the rest did. Emrys went to the male side of the baths, Astrid and Emma to the female side. Emma was quickly found by Dagmær and informed that an emissary from House Germaine, a new arrival in Kingsport, had need for Emma’s services. The family had just acquired a new manse whose garden held a well that they would have blessed by a priestess of Sedna and they had donated generously to the bathhouse.

Emma decided to meditate on it while bathing and came to the conclusion that she would perform the ritual. A messenger was sent to inform House Germaine and a short while later a carriage arrived with a handsome rider who introduced himself as William. He was to take Emma to where she needed to go. Everyone piled into the carriage and after a short ride through the city arrived at the gate of the royal palace, atop Garamond Hill, where the guards saluted William and let the carriage through without challenge.

The grounds around the royal palace were splendidly decorated. The manor was overwhelming and even the dépendance magnificent.

There are two large buildings that occupy the palace grounds, the manor and the dependance. The royal manor overlooks a terraced, sprawling, immaculately kept park, filled with ponds, marble statues, rose gardens and the like. You also spot a prominent shrine to Chauntea, complete with a statue covered with beautiful roses. It is clear that grounds are meant to impress visitors, of which, Emma notes, there are precious few. Some crownsguard, who all salute William, some diplomats and a few of the nobility are walking around the gardens.

The manor’s enormous facade consists of a rusticated limestone base from which rise impossibly tall, white granite columns, framing the windows of the three main floors. The top floor is hidden by a decorated cornice, which seems to encircle the manor and is capped with a large balustrade, richly adorned with statues of kings, queens, and saints of Paladine. The manor has an almost fairy tale beauty.

The dependance is a much simpler looking building, designed specifically for that purpose. A much plainer facade overlooks the terrace, but made from the same limestone masonry as the palace. It houses the servants, barracks, armoury, stables, stores and larders.

Near the back of the grounds, between the manor and the dépendance stood an iron fence filled with luscious rose buses, obscuring the view beyond. An iron gate was flanked on either side by crownsguard who once again saluted William. The adventurers were requested to disembark the carriage and leave their weapons behind. Emma convinces William that she will require her Muirgheal in her ritual and she is permitted to bring it along.

The sound of water comes through from beyond the rose-covered gate. On the other side you are treated to a beautiful garden, with a multitude of pools and baths, each fed by streams, fountains, and water gargoyles. Beautifully designed, open pergolas and verandas, each framed by colourful lilies, provide ample amounts of shade from the sun.

Underneath the largest pergola, shaded by flowers and silks, sits a young woman, in her teens, dressed a beautiful red dress, adorned by a mesh of pearls. She is surrounded by several handmaidens and several servants are at her beck and call. A table filled with the freshest fruits is laid out, and crystal, elven decanters are filled with the finest Beauclair wines are available.

William leads Emma to the pergola, stands to the side and announces; “Your grace, I present to you, Emma Desmarais, priestess of Sedna, Sister of Streams and Lady of Lakes. Miss Desmarais, may I present to you, her majesty, Queen Isabella Valois.”

The queen turned out to be a commanding, but delightful young woman. She explained that the garden was designed by Francesca Sabatini, a renowned architect from Arroya. She said that it was her favourite place to retreat from diplomats and royal affairs and that she thought it fitting that when a true priestess of Sedna had arrived in Kingsport, to have the gardens blessed. She apologised for her subterfuge.

She was also interested in Emma, asking her where she got her last name, her training, and if there was any truth to the rumours that she had been working for House Sheridan, asking Emma to forgive her curiosity.

Meanwhile, Emrys, Luca and Astrid were invited to sit with the handmaidens in the shade beneath the silks. Astrid immediately gorged herself on the fruit which was being ignored, while Emrys entertained himself by getting to know one of her grace’s handmaidens, Lady Annabella of House Waxley, a sharp and engaging young woman.

Luca spent his time observing the surroundings and noticed a man with a curious mitre wrapped in ribbons of parchment covered with arcane script. The man was on the ground floor of the manor, staring out through the window, looking intently at the conversation going on between Emma and the Queen. All the while his lips were moving in a warding enchantment.

Emma explained to the queen that she could bless the waters of her beautiful garden, but that it would require them to find the source of the spring. The majordomo and several servants were fetched who lead the adventurers and the queen’s entourage inside the manor and down into the cellars. The cellars made way to even deeper catacombs, which eventually lead to a small cavern chamber.

Inside the chamber it was damp and hot and in the middle of the natural rock of Garamond Hill there was a small, natural cauldron up through which warm water bubbled up. This was as close to the spring as the group could get.

Emma started her ritual and first asked the spring what its name was. The water in the natural cauldron rose somewhat and the spring revealed its name to be Bláthnaid. It was an old Kaedwyni name which meant “flower” or “blossom.” Emma concluded that the waters of Sedna and the creations of Chauntea were cooperating exceptionally well in the water gardens of the royal palace.

Emma got inside the water of the spring to continue the ritual and invited the queen to participate. The queen ripped her exquisite skirt off without hesitation, revealing some delicate breeches underneath, and stepped into the warm spring water to join in the ritual. The remainder of the ritual took long enough for several of the servants to excuse themselves to attend to other duties. Eventually, the it came to an end when Emma placed a mark of Sedna in the cauldron of the spring.

Before the adventurers departed, Lady Annabella asked Emrys to confirm that he was staying at the Careless Wanderer, Luca confronted the mage who was protecting the queen with the incoming tide of magic and all the implications, to which the mage only nodded gravely in return, and the queen showed her appreciation by letting Emma know that she would be in her debt as a show of gratitude, something which might come in handy in the future.