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.”
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.