Tag: Conjunction

Of Orcs and Men

Fifth Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

Previously, the adventurers managed to collapse the portal room and make their way through the catacombs, into the aqueduct and back to the estate. They found a warm welcome, until the Kaedwyni orcs climbed out of the well and then the mood soured. The orcs were sequestered in the barn and a feast was prepared to celebrate the return of Bartosz, the stalwart Sheridan guard who had made it back to the surface after being lost. The servants ate in the courtyard, the lords and their guests, including the adventurers, at in the mansion, and the orcs were stowed away.

The dinner at the mansion continued and there was ample room to socialise. Astrid and Marcus descended into doing drinking games, while Emrys was going around the table talking to everyone. Emma spoke to Benten about the pendant, intending on returning it to him, but he gifted it to the adventurers for their search of Lord Destan. He explained that it was a Transmuter’s Stone, which allowed the wearer certain small, but handy magical benefits, ranging from bestowing darkvision upon its wearer, much like that which is innate to the elder races, or making a person more hardy and able to withstand the elements.

The topic of the orcs came up and it became clear that the Sheridan position was a precarious one. Host the orcs as guests and it would cause trouble among the commoners, and if word spread, among other nobility. Let the orcs depart on their own recognisance and they would have to stealth and fight their way to safety. Smuggle the orcs to the coast and it would require having to stow away the orcs in boxes and crates, which seemed like something the orcs felt was too akin to imprisonment. One thing became clear, if a solution wasn’t found quickly, Lord Jonathan wouldn’t hesitate to put the name of his house before the safety of the orcs.

Luca departed for the night, and Emma eventually tried to show solidarity with the orcs by spending the night in the stables. Captain Mollen reasoned with her that the commoners would never accept that and assume the worst. The orcs would not remain safe, nor could Emma’s safety be guaranteed. Emma relented and tried to talk to the orcs and convinced them not to do anything rash, but ultimately felt that the situation was as unstable as Brando’s blasting powder. Anything could ignite violence.

Sixth Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

The following morning, Luca got up early and went to visit the orcs. He had felt that it was time to help the situation along, since he had given up on a satisfying resolution if he let things up to the Sheridan lords. He warned Korath to be at the ready and wait for a big boom before making their escape. He departed the stables and started walking around the grounds trying to analyse the situation in order to best aid the orcs in their escape.

The rest of the adventurers came together outside to rummage through the left overs from last night’s feast and cobble together a breakfast. Emma noticed that Luca was plotting and when they all spoke it became clear to the others that Luca was planning an escape for the orcs. Emma was reluctant, but she understood the orc’s credo: Kor-ah ogar, freedom or death, and so she felt she should help. Arming the orcs, however, went against what she considered to be the laws of the hospitality that they had been offered by the Sheridan lords. Astrid offered the orcs her weapons, a great sword and two hand axes. Emma offered them her javelin. Other weapons they would have to improvise.

The adventurers found themselves in conversation in the mansion’s study and they made a proposal; one thousand gold crowns for each upon the safe return of Lord Destan, and one thousand gold crowns for the group for expenses. Besides that, Lord Jonathan would give the group two horses and an open carriage for transportation. It all seemed like a rushed negotiation while the adventurers had the orcs on their mind.

Luca was given a pearl by Benten the Purple so that he could further investigate the weapons that they had taken from the catacombs. And Luca also told the others about the macabre history of the Crimson Tower

Closing the Portal and Returning to the Estate

Fourth Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

Previously, the adventurers had battled their way past the albino skaven and its forces, including the ogre-sized rat and its taskmaster to find the portal through which the skaven had arrived in the catacombs. They had found James, captured and bound, in a state of torpor from which he would not awake. He  was one of several prisoners, including one of the missing dwarven engineers by the name of Brandomiir and Bartosz, the remaining missing Sheridan guard. And then there were the four orcs, who had been used as slave labour by the skaven.

Soon after the four Lyrian knights who had been fighting the skaven in the catacombs came into the room through the second entrance to the mezzanine that the adventurers had seen, and introduced themselves properly.

The prisoners were released and together a plan was hatched to collapse the room on top of the portal, therefore closing off the skaven’s access to the catacombs. Initially, the plan was to use Emma’s gifts as a priestess to create water in the cracks and crevices of the ceiling of the room. The ceiling had already been severely compromised due to the sudden appearance of the portal and its powerful but unstable magical energy.

The group decided to move to the mezzanine and climbed the broken staircase. Summi, the smallest and most nimble of orcs, carried the still unconscious James in his arms and managed to climb up. When Emrys and Dame Julie were having trouble scaling the staircase, the orcs created an “orc ladder” where they locked arms and gave everyone having enough handholds to make it up the broken staircase.

Emma asked Brando if he could lend his engineering assistance, which he was happy to do. He had been in great spirits after having found his weapon, a thing he called an arquebus, from among the crates that the skaven had left behind. His advice was far ranging and had to do with the “load-bearing capacity” of certain section of the ceiling, pillars and walls. It was Bran’s belief that the task would likely be accomplished much faster with his blasting powder.

Emma and Emrys decided to give their idea a chance first and while they did manage to widen one particular crack in the ceiling and dislodge several rocks from it, it was not nearly enough to cause a collapse of the room. Korath was pushed forward by the rest of the orcs;

Humies need ratmen barrel that boom go?

Korath brough a small group to one of the excavated vaults which the skaven had turned into a store room. Three barrels filled with blasting powder, much like the ones used to collapse the entrance to the communal room in which the adventurers fought the rat-ogre and its taskmaster. There was also enough fuse wire to allow the entire room to be rigged with explosives. While Brandomiir wasn’t particularly happy with the quality of the blasting powder, he became positively giddy at the idea of using it to bring down the ceiling of the portal room.

Before the room was rigged up, most retreated back to the communal room to prepare for rest and to hide from the explosion. Ser Arman stayed behind in order to protect the group setting up the demolitions. He spoke to Emma; it seems he had noticed her ailment and offered to use the blessings of Paladine to restore her to her former health, an offer she gladly took him up on.

Ser Arman takes his heavy gauntlet off his right hand and places it gently on Emma’s shoulder. He closes his eyes and his hard faces softens as he starts to mumble, only audible to those nearest to him.

“Lord of Light, Patron of Good, Father of all things, bestow your mercy upon this woman, whose heart I have judged to be good and purge her body of the evil filth brought upon her by the rats which defiled these hallowed halls like they defiled her body.”

Emma’s body starts shaking uncontrollably as if bereft of warmth on a cold winter’s day. Slowly at first, but violently after a few seconds. Her teeth chatter, her limbs spasm and with every convulsion, as her limbs twitch back and forth, wisps of acrid smoke trails off her skin.

Seconds later Emma’s body once again comes to rest as the lasts tufts of ochre smoke trails into nothingness, and she feel exhausted. There is a peaceful stillness and calm inside of her that fills her with a sense of happiness and contentment.

Under Bran’s instructions the barrels were placed and the fuses were drawn. Luca did the honours and conjured a flame from the palm of his hand which he used to light all the fuses at once. Immediately the group retreated out of the room, down the corridor and hid at the far end around the corner for three heavy explosions to rock and shake all of the catacombs. Dust and debris was jettisoned from the corridor but nobody was injured. After a cursory inspection the room was determined to have been a complete collapse.

The adventurers decided not to circumvent the collapsed room and approach it from the other direction to make sure that the other entrance to the room was also completely blocked.

In the meantime, the rest of the group, under the leadership of Lord Marcus, managed to tidy up the communal room by getting rid of the skaven bodies and starting a fire using the wood and filler from the crates they had found in the portal room. When everyone was reunited the remaining food was shared between everyone and Emrys even found some ways to stretch it by making some broth. The Lyrian knights decided to stand guard while everyone tried to rest.

Fifth Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

Several hours after deciding to rest in the communal room while the Lyrian knights take turns to stand guard at the only open doorway. While everyone was busy waking up, the orcs, under Bran’s supervision, started to clear the other doorway, the one that the skaven had collapsed. Emma helped out for a while, but couldn’t really improve the speed with which the orcs were going through the rubble any, so she decided to turn her attention to the conversation that Emrys was having with the knights.

Ser Arman shared some of the legends that were taught at the different orders of Lyrian knights, about the Silver Crusade and about the Senhadrim that were in league with them. There was some further speculation about the nature and the purpose of the catacombs, but no new insights or revelations that the adventurers hadn’t considered before.

When Emrys asked Ser Arman how he came to lead his knights into the catacombs, he said that he was visiting the Correntine ward in Kingsport from Gryphon’s Roost and got word from his cousin, Lord Charles Courtenay, the Duke of Northshire and Baron of Powderham, which is an estate neighbouring that of Lynnecombe. A sink hole had been discovered on Powderham lands and was wondering if Ser Arman wouldn’t mind investigating.

The conversation turned to the orcs, and Ser Arman proposed a pact between the knights and the adventurers; that they would stand in opposition to anyone who would capture or harm the orcs in any way. They had proven themselves to peaceful and helpful. The adventurers all agreed to the pledge.

When finally the orcs had managed to dig through enough of the rubble in the doorway in order to push even Garr’s massive frame through safely the group got under way. As before, Emma relied on the markings she had left in the walls, while Luca relied on his uncanny ability to simply know the way, and the group walked all the way back to the passage leading to the aqueduct.

Upon arriving in the aqueduct, Brandomiir quickly retrieved the things he had left behind. He was especially happy to see his blasting powder in good condition.

When the group arrived at the well, Astrid ferried them across to the middle of the lake:

Astrid starts ferrying people from the edge of the aqueduct to the centre of the pool where the bucket at the end of the boom dips into the water. Lord Marcus is the first to go up and finds a steadily growing crowd of house guards and servants gathering around the well on the surface. One by one people emerge. When Bartosz finally emerges from the well, the gathered crowd erupts in cheering and clapping. From the balcony above, the Sheridan lords join in the clapping. With his triumphant return, Bartosz salutes Captain Mollen and is instantly elevated to the status of hero. The man who came back from the depths.

When the Lyrian knights are hoisted up and out of the well the crowd quiets down and a murmur of awe and wonder spreads through the crowd. Children hide behind the skirts of their mothers, youngsters look in admiration and the elderly cast their eyes down in reverence. When Ser Arman climbs out the well, the Sheridan lords look up in shock and disappear from view as they retreat inside the mansion.

The lords make it down to the well, just in time for Korath to squeeze his frame through the well’s opening. The response by the commoners is to take several frightened steps back. The response by the house guards is to draw arms and close ranks. Korath takes a knee, lowers his head and opens his arms in a sign of submission, while the Lyrian knights place themselves defensively between the house guard and Korath. One by one the orcs climb to the surface, each met with more shock than the next. Finally, Summi emerges, carrying James across his shoulder. He gently lays James down on the ground and also opens his arms in submission. Garr is trying his best to appear nonthreatening, but there simply isn’t a fibre in his body which will allow him to appear that way.

The servants left while Lord Marcus discussed solutions with his brother. Emma suggested housing the orcs in the stables, quarantining them much like the way she had been quarantined during her illness. The lords agreed with the suggestion and Captain Mollen escorted the orcs to the stables and ordered the stable master to clear it of horses. Cots were set up for the orcs and they were required to hand over their weapons.

A banquet was planned for later that evening and there were still a few hours to spend before it started. Emma felt the urge to head to the river and invited Luca along. Emrys and Astrid decided to join for the walk.

The woods around the Lynnecombe estate were warm, pleasant and filled with life, making the walk to Lynnecombe-upon-Lyn very pleasant. So pleasant that it made Emma hum some sea shanties. To her surprise the trident which she had found in the catacombs and was carrying on her back, was gently resonating in harmony with her tune. Arriving at the village, the adventurers decided to circumvent it and head towards a shallow in the river that gave them some privacy.

There, Emrys spent time sitting at the water’s edge, inspecting the elven longsword he had retrieved from the catacombs. It was unnaturally light for such a sword and he could carry it with great ease. The blade was made from a metal that so bright that it seemed to shine with an inner light. Elven runes of great antiquity were carved all down the centre of the blade, reminding Emrys of the legendary Moonblades that were in the possession of the most ancient and noble Elven lineages. The guard was made from metal and brass and a delicate braided, metal wire wrapping neatly around the long heft.

Astrid had undone much of her clothing and was laying in the grass, dangling her feet in the water. Seemingly without a care in the world.

Emma had undressed and taken to water and was swimming a few laps before getting Luca to do the same. It had taken some time to convince him and he didn’t seem comfortable once he was in the water. Once Emma held him by the arms and he floated in the water Emma started to perform a cleansing ritual, meticulously cleaning his body, which eventually cured him of the disease which the skaven had inflicted upon him.

The four adventurers stayed at the river’s edge until it became time to head back to the estate at the end of the afternoon. Upon their return, Ser Arman had departed for Powderham. They found Brandomiir on a bench in the sun smoking a pipe and the remaining knights cleaning their arms. The servants had set up long tables in front of the servant’s house and had laid out a feast of soups, sausages, vegetables, breads and cheeses. It seemed that the servants would be having their own banquet that evening.

The adventurers decided to fill up four large plates of food and bring it over to the orcs who were still in the stables. Two of the house guards had been stationed outside of the stable and initially had no intention of letting the adventurers through, but were quickly convinced to step aside. Inside, the orcs, having had to relinquish their weapons, had prepared plenty of make shift weapons. Emma advised them to keep the weapons out of sight to which Korath made the emotional and determined pledge that they would not be imprisoned again. They gladly accepted the food and the adventurers departed.

Eventually, Captain Mollen came to invite the adventurers, the knights, Brandomiir and Bartosz to follow him to the mansion where they were lead to the dining room. There an even more impressive feast than the ones the servants had prepared was laid out on a table decorated with fine plates, silverware, cups and even delicate crystal glasses to serve wine in.

The Sheridan lords were seated at the head of the table, Lord Jonathan at the top of the table, with Lord Marcus and Ser Benten on either side. The dinner was served.

First, a thick soup of barley and venison, followed by a salad of sweetgrass, spinach and plumbs, sprinkled with crushed nuts. Then snails in honey and garlic, followed by a trout, fresh from the river, baked in clay, where the hard casing is cracked open to expose the flaky white skin within. The crowning dish was a large rack of boar, thinly sliced and seasoned with rosemary and crushed peppercorns. For dessert, sweetbreads and cheese, baked apples with fragrant cinnamon and Carcarian cakes frosted in sugar. All served with the finest Beauclairois wines, Mazurian spirits and Lyrian ales.

While everyone ate and chatted a trio of servants played instruments on the mezzanine above. The conversation was pleasant until the conversation turned to the fate of the orcs in the stables. Lord Jonathan was convinced to find a way to allow the orcs to return to Kaedwyn, which he admitted was going to be hard considering the Lyrian and Kaedwyni attitudes towards their race. The couldn’t stay, because that would not go well with the locals. They could not be set free, because that would not go well with the locals. Besides offering to smuggle them onto a ship at Kingsport and sailing them to Kaedwyn, Lord Jonathan didn’t offer any committed solutions.

Lord Jonathan proposed that the adventurers, who had shown themselves capable, resourceful and trustworthy, would set out for another task. It seemed that the patron of House Sheridan had decreed that the middle brother, Lord Destan Sheridan, should return home from an expedition to Pinefall; lands belonging to the Sheridans up in the Silverpine Hills. He was to return home and stand by his family while they considered the revelations of the last couple of days.

Lord Destan had left for Pinefall on the festival of Greengrass, together with three house guards as an escort. Initially he sent word back every few days, but they had not heard from him in three rides and they were worried that something might have happened to him.

Lord Jonathan claimed that the middle brother had gone to find the mysterious Crimson Tower, which legend had it resided in the area. The village of Bristlecone is where he had headed, and there was another hamlet by the name of Hunter’s Hollar that they knew of in Pinefall.

Luca, familiar with many legends, knew the Crimson Tower’s macabre tale, but decided to keep it to himself for now:

The story goes that a powerful member of the Silver Crusade was corrupted by a high ranking devil prince and convinced to lead a several hundred knights into a battle they couldn’t possibly win.

The knights were resoundingly defeated and their bodies were magically kept from dying. Neither truly alive, nor truly dead, the knights were stripped of their precious arms and armour and taken to the tower.

Their bodies were nailed to the tower until it was a writhing mass of bleeding bodies, moaning and howling in pain. Their blood soaked the walls and permanently stained them crimson, which is how the tower got its name.

The demons flew around the tower and raked at the bodies with talons and claws, and lashed them with barbed whips, and still the knights wouldn’t perish.

Eventually, a large host of griffon riders made their way down from Gryphon’s Roost to free their captured comrades, but when they arrived the tower was gone and so was any trace of the knights.

A search was conducted; griffon riders flew far and wide, the woods were combed by hunters and footmen, lakes were dived by fishermen, but not a trace of the tower or the knights were recovered.

Over the following decades, the tower was spotted appearing and disappearing, and the screeching of demons and the howling of the damned knights could be heard at night. Each time it was followed by another search by the Lyrian knights for their captured comrades, and each time the were disappointed to find no traces.

Finding the Source of the Infestation

Third Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

Previously, the albino rat-man had just filled up the corridor with a noxious fume, leaving the adventurers coughing and retching, and giving it enough opportunity to escape. When the fumes cleared and the adventurers regained the control over their diaphragms, they found a trail of dark, arterial blood. It was gravely injured and unlikely to have gone far.

They found the wretched creature in the middle of a large, pillared hall at the end of the corridor, softly lit by a row of ensconced torches. It was up against a central, stone bench, struggling to sit up. They approached carefully, remembering the ambush in the last pillared hall. Emma kicked the scythe it had carried away from it and tried to talk to it while Astrid and Marcus made sure to secure the rest of the room.

The albino was coughing up blood and gibberish that nobody understood. Nobody but Luca, who seemed able to understand and communicate with the dying rat man. Luca learned that the rat men called themselves “skaven” but was unwilling to share much more until Luca used an arcane command to compel the “skaven” to speak. Much to the skaven’s own surprise the words tumbled from its bloody maw.

The skaven were there to find the “imprisoned sorcerers”, who had their spirits embedded in the “One-hundred-forty-four Arms of the Senhadrim.” Luca kept pressing the skaven but the arcane compulsion had faded. The skaven remarked that the source of Luca’s abilities were similar to its own, but that it knew that it’s patron, the “horned rat”, was stronger than Luca’s. Luca unleashed a deadly bolt of dark, eldritch energy and killed the skaven.

His action came much to the surprise of the other adventurers, perhaps even to the surprise of Luca himself. Both Emma and Marcus voiced their concern, but before the conversation could start in earnest, a large, heavy object came rolling into the doorway from whence they came and exploded with a deafening boom, collapsing the corridor.

Soon after…

Heavy footfalls can be heard coming from a corridor up ahead. Accompanied with the footfalls is a strange scraping sound and occasionally you hear a low, rumbling screech. The archway remains dark for a moment as the source of the sounds seems to be coming closer.

The first thing to hit the light is a pink, whiskered snout, which appears just below the top of the doorway. It sniffs the air and a giant rat-man appears to fill the archway. It tries to push its way in, but the archway is too small to fit its massive frame. It easily stands at the height of a full grown ogre.

Angry screeching and a sharp crack of a whip can be heard from behind the behemoth. Frustrated, it lets out a terrifying screech and angrily pushes forward, into the archway’s frame. A claw reaches into the door and it pops its head and one of its shoulders through the opening, still stuck with the rest of its body. It strains its legs and with a screeching roar it dislodges several stones from the archway, bursting into the room while behind it more masonry falls to the ground.

It’s body is a mess of scars, pink flesh and sickly tufts of mottled brown hair. Some of the scars seem fresh, with large iron staples holding the flesh together. Its right paw has been replaced by — or fitted with, it is completely unclear — a large jagged spike that extends far past its legs. It must have been fitted with it a long time ago, since the right shoulder seems to have grown considerably in bulk to compensate for the weight.

On its back, seated in a strange, leather harness, sits another rat-man, carrying a wicked, barbed whip in one hand and a hand crossbow in the other. The leather straps that hold the harness in place are fitted around both shoulders, but the bulbous, muscled flesh of the right shoulder has painfully swallowed the straps as it has been forced to grow around it.

Once cleared from the rubble falling on top of it from the crumbling archway, it immediately lopes towards you, spurred on by the its taskmaster, raising that dreadful spike, ready to attack.

While the giant rat ogre and its taskmaster ran into the room the adventurers took up cover behind the large stone bench that the albino had died up against. Lord Marcus took up positions between the bench and a pillar on one side while Astrid did the same on the other side, effectively closing off immediate access to the rest of the adventurers.

The rat ogre ran towards Astrid and immediately engaged her in vicious battle, stabbing and striking at her with that vicious spike attached to its arm. Lord Marcus circled around and started to attack from the flank, while Emma unleashed a bolt of radiant, aquamarine light at the taskmaster who was hit square in the chest, despite being partially hidden behind the rat ogre’s large frame. The others respondent swiftly and made managed to take the task master down quickly while Astrid kept the rat ogre’s focus on her while they did so.

Midway through the fight several skaven scurried into the room, attacking Lord Marcus in the rear and also reaching Luca and Emrys. Emrys managed to make excellent use of the discarded scythe belonging to the dead albino to fling it across the room and into the skaven, while Luca sent bolt after bolt of eldritch energy into them.

The rat ogre continued to fight on ferociously, seemingly swelling up in size, with noxious fumes escaping its mouth and nostrils, and even through some of the fresh wounds that had been stapled together on its torso. Shortly after it let out a billowing stream of noxious vapour which washed over Astrid and Emma.

Eventually, Astrid was gravely wounded and she briefly lost consciousness before Emma stepped in to quickly call upon the merciful powers of Sedna to pull her from the brink of death. Shortly after the big brute was brought down, and promptly collapsed on top of Lord Marcus. In its death throws, its torso swelled up with internal pressure, sending several of the metal staples shoot out across the room. Its torso ruptured and released a dangerous cloud of noxious fumes, injuring some of the adventurers who couldn’t get enough distance in time.

When the calm had returned to the chamber the adventurers decided to take a short rest, recovering from some of their injuries and preparing to continue on their search. The corridor from whence they came had collapsed and so the only way was forward. Emrys used his arcane talents to spread water in the entrance to the open corridor and freeze it solid into a slippery sheet of ice. Anyone coming into the chamber while they rested would not go unnoticed.

Fourth Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

After resting, Emma briefly took a moment to inspect the stone bench and the circular well that was set inside of it, while Luca once again inspected the pillars in the room. They were once again decorated with sculptures this time not depicting matters of war, but rather that of community. Emrys once again made himself very useful, putting his arcane talents to use by repairing the damage to Lord Marcus’ chain mail armour. Eventually Luca became impatient to continue down the open corridor and everyone made preparations to leave the lit, pillared chamber and plunge themselves into the dark corridor beyond.

It didn’t go unnoticed by the adventurers that the corridor they entered had a clear, downward slope and eventually they came upon a cross junction. From the right corridor, everyone could clearly hear a curious sound, one that Emma had heard before, like the sound of an everlasting wave. They decided to head in that direction to investigate.

The corridor ended on a partially collapsed balcony overlooking a large room…

The hallway opens up to a large room with a high ceiling. In the middle of the room, surrounded by a halo of electric blue light, shining so bright as to almost approach white, hovers a disc of pure darkness, standing twice is tall as a normal man. Wisps of light emanated by the halo seem to be sucked into the depth of this black maelstrom.

The roiling sound that escapes from the deepest recesses of this pit of darkness resembles that of a wave rolling out from the shore. But whereas a wave comes in, crashes and rolls out again, this wave is ever receding, constant and one directional.

It fills you with a sense of loss and grief.

You see an albino skaven approach the maelstrom and take one last look back, letting out a vicious screech which almost gets drowned out by the sound of despair coming from deep within the center of the nothingness. It steps across the threshold of the rift, and it immediately gets sucked into its depths until it is completely gone. Two cloaked skaven, fussing over something among the crystalline structures, drop what they were carrying and also dive into the rift.

The sheer energy of the portal has caused several of the vaulted archways in the room to buckle and collapse, causing bits of rubble to occasionally fall down around the portal. Some of the stones sometimes enter the portal, and are immediately sucked deep into the black pit.

Strange, multi-coloured, molten slag has gathered in an arc around the base of the portal. Crystalline structures have formed into it, jutting from the slag like vicious teeth from an angry maw.

Among the crystalline structures, you notice the bound and gagged form of a dwarven man wearing a brown leather jerkin, grey breeches and steel tipped, leather boots. His beard is reddish-brown, streaked with grey. His head is shaved down, with a short, brown mohawk. Behind him are several others, all of them bound by leather straps. It’s hard to make out who they are or what state they are in.

The adventurers noticed that two, partially collapsed staircases lead down into the room and that there was another corridor leading onto the balcony from a different direction. Emma was the first to attempt to make her way down the rubble to prisoners below, with the others quick to follow. It was quickly discovered that, among the different crates, chests and barrels of supplies, there was a dwarf, a human, and four orcs, all bound and gagged. Last but not least, they found James, also bound and gagged, but also unconscious.

The first to be unbound was the dwarf, who introduced himself as Brandomiir. Emma asked the orcs if they would cause trouble if she would release them from their bounds, and Brandomiir explained that only Korath could speak and understand common. The others were Kadan, Korath’s brother, Summi and Garr. Bartosz was the human and turned out to be the last missing Sheridan guard. He was very happy to be reunited with Lord Marcus.

Korath was ungagged and explained that they were taken as slaves by the skaven and that they were originally from Kaedwyn. They came to be in the catacombs by arriving through the portal. He said the portals lead to demons and that he had been taken from Kaedwyn by another portal. They were large and strong and possibly not exactly what the adventurers had hitherto associated with orcs.

Brandomiir also explained that James had been brought in unconscious a few hours previous and that it was clear that he had tried to steal from the skaven.

In the meantime, Luca was concerning himself more with the strange portal in the middle of the room, the slag that had formed around it and the crystals that were growing among the slag. He found and collected some strange ore from among the slag and was throwing pebbles into the portal to see how it responded. Emrys was uncomfortable with Luca’s experiment and Luca’s response was… unfriendly.

The five Lyrian knights whom James and Emrys had seen previously appeared through the other corridor onto the balcony. They climbed down and properly introduced themselves. Their leader was Ser Arman de Courtenay, Master Commander in the Order of the Gryphon, dressed in lapis lazuli gilded armour, carrying a sword which Luca later identified as magical.

The two silver-gilded knights, both carrying halberds were Dame Madeline of Ashenvale and Ser Guillaume of Sanségal. The former a tall, blond haired-beauty, the latter a brown haired, mustachioed fellow with a thick, Beauclairois accent.

The two remaining fire-gilded knights, both carrying swords and shields, were Ser David Longstrider of House Longstrider, whom Emrys remembered to be a noble house from Farcorner, and Dame Julie of Lewisham, a woman with a strong, stoic features and a strong Kingsport accent.

It was decided to continue travelling together. The orcs were also invited to come along, though it was unclear what would happen with them once they reached the surface. Lord Marcus suggested that there might be an opportunity to have them sail to Kaedwyn on one of the Sheridan merchant vessels, but that his brother would likely refuse.

The portal would have to be closed somehow. Nobody really knew how to achieve that, so quickly the ideas turned towards collapsing the room in onto the portal. Brandomiir said that he could probably collapse the room if he had access to his blasting powder, which was back at the Sheridan aqueduct. Emma suggested using some of the divine and arcane talents in the group to freeze some water in the cracks in the ceiling, further destabilising it.

An inspection of the chests and crates was done, revealing curious golden coins and a set of identical rubies. Five weapons were recovered, an elegant elven sword, a pair of simple shortswords, a trident beautiful decorated with engravings of waves, shells and sea creatures, and a wooden staff, decorated with pieces of cut obsidian, and a curious gemstone set in the tip, shining like a piece of the night’s sky filled with stars. Luca noticed all these items were magical, but they were in a state of constant flux.

Return to the Catacombs

Third Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

After waking up in their respective accommodations, either in the servants building, or the stables, the adventurers begin their day. It became immediately apparent to each of them that the day was going to be a warm day indeed.

Luca decides to pay Emma a visit, but not before he had taken some precautions by raiding the kitchen for some of their herbs. A portly Beauclairois chef sternly informed him that he was not to raid the larders without permission of the chef himself. In the end Luca managed to depart with some of the overripe wreaths of garlic and bushels of rosemary, which he fashioned into a smell bag he felt would provide him with enough protection against whatever ailed Emma.

Emma, who had awoken by the sounds of Captain Hallis Mollen ordering a search of the premises for someone who had unexpectedly departed, felt weak. She had just inspected and rebandaged her wound when Captain Hallis checked up on her and gave her permission to leave the stables and join the breakfast.

Luca arrived at the stables shortly after that in order to find out what condition Emma was in. Emma shared that Ser Benten had visited her the previous evening and had supplied her with a crystal pendant which would help her fight off the disease. Luca inspected the pendant and noticed the faint magic emanating from it. When inspecting Emma’s wound, Luca once again heard that warm, honey-dipped voice. This time it assured him that he could freely touch Emma’s wound without fear of being infect, and that the voice would never let anything happen to him.

Astrid and Emrys had found the breakfast tables which had been set up between the mansion and the servants building. Two long tables, covered in a simple, clean table cloth, filled with breads, cheeses, sausages, jams and honeys, wines and ales. All manner of servants were breaking their fast and Emrys and Astrid took place among them. The large nordling woman was quietly devouring everything in reach, while Emrys was intently listening to the talk around him.

Emrys found out that one of the servants, during a late night jaunt to the privy, had noticed that James had quietly sneaked out of the servants building and made his way down into the well under cover of darkness. Once reported, Captain Hallis had sent people to scout the mansion grounds, making sure that nothing had been taken.

When Luca and Emma joined the breakfast table, they were given some free spaces at the end of the table, in the shadow of the mansion. Astrid and Emrys took their plates and went to join them. Quickly the conversation turned to James and his possible reasons for wanting to depart. It was noticed that both Lord Marcus as well as Ser Benten were quietly observing the breakfast from the third floor balcony.

After breakfast, Captain Hallis came to escort the adventurers to the study. There, Lord Marcus offered the remaining adventurers another task; to go back down into the catacombs and to incapacitate the rat-men or take away their tunnelling capabilities. He reasoned that as along as they were still down their and were able to tunnel into the aqueduct, the estate would never be safe from threat. Only then could they get dwarven engineers from Ard Thoradun to repair the water flow. Lord Marcus realised that with a man short that the group would require some backup, and he gladly provided it by offering to come along himself.

The discussion on compensation was initially done individually. Emma asked for a reward which would allow her to get the healing she needed at the temple of Pholtus back in Kingsport. Lord Marcus assured her that he would take care of any such expenses upon completion of the task. Luca wanted unrestricted access to the Sheridan library, something which was denied him by Ser Benten, who felt he could only go so far as to allow Luca access to the unrestricted collection. Emrys wanted access to historical information even forgotten by the elves. When Astrid stated that she would require two hundred gold crowns, Lord Marcus promised each of them the same amount of gold crowns, as well as pledge that he would try to aid them in their individual goals.

Lord Marcus also brought up who the gold crowns should be paid out to in the case of their perishing, and Emma bequeathed the coin to Dagmaer at the Sacred Baths of Sedna in Kingsport. Luca, unexpectedly, also said that his reward should go toward Dagmaer, claiming that he had no intention of perishing in the catacombs. Astrid said that she wanted the gold to be placed on her funeral pyre so that she may take it to Valhalla. Emrys, cryptically, named the elf Voriël, who could be found in the woodland community he was from, confident in the assumption that Lord Marcus to knew the location he was referring to.

Once again, the adventurers could take their pick from the supplies on offer and get ready to descend into well at noon. Luca made arrangements with a leather worker to have a leather armour fitted to him, while the rest either restocked and rested. Lanterns, lamp oil and torches were the predominant equipment of choice and everyone decided to take rations and bedrolls in case the adventurers would need to rest below the surface.

When noon came and the adventurers, together with Lord Marcus, descended into the cavern below the well, Captain Hallis tried to reason with her lord one last time, to no avail. The descent was made easy when Emrys went first and swam to the edge of the pool to retrieve the boat. When everyone had been ferried safely to the start of the aqueduct, Emma called upon the power of her goddess to dry out Emrys’ clothing, drawing a remark from Luca about the frivolous way in which she accessed her power.

The trek up the aqueduct went off without a problem. The blockade was as the adventurers had left it and the equipment belonging to the dwarven engineers who had gone missing was still there, untouched. Everyone scaled the rubble and made it to the tunnel leading to the catacombs and the adventurers pointed out to Lord Marcus the marks that they had found on the inside of the tunnel which they argued were either marks of claws or tools. Lord Marcus ran his finger along one of the marks and found a dusting of iron filings which lead him to believe that the marks were made with tools, not claws.

Making their way through the tunnel to the catacombs the adventurers made their way through the vaulted tunnels to the room where they had fought and defeated the rat-men. In order to illustrate to Lord Marcus who they were up against, Emrys conjured up a very detailed illusionary image of the scythe-wielding, albino sorcerer that was leading them. One of the things that stood out were the curved horns that the rat was wearing, as well as the array of grizzly looking spell components.

In the meanwhile, Emma started to investigate the room that they were in. Different from all the other corridors they have been in, she felt that there was a special significance to the room that they simply couldn’t figure out. Luca saw the wisdom in her inquiry and helped her out. Besides some unrecognisable, decayed, organic material there was nothing to be found. Despite her constant dizziness, nausea and headache, she came up with another plan; since the only thing in the room were the two rows of pillars, she decided to clear one of the middle pillars of moss and search for any decorations that might explain the function of the room.

What she uncovered, with a little help from Astrid, were worn and faded engravings depicting battle scenes of groups of disciplined knights against a chaotic horde of evil looking creatures. Some of the knights were mounted, some of the mounted on flying creatures, and some of them on foot. Later examination also showed several small groups of spell casters in their midst. Some scripture could also be found, but the lettering had faded from the limestone to such a degree that only a few words could be made out here and there, one of which being Senhadrim.

Eventually the adventurers moved on through the other corridor connecting to the opposite end of the pillared room. After some time another tunnel was found, this time dug to a chamber which otherwise had no entrances or exits. Inside, they could find a dead rat-man, cloaked and wearing a strange, thick hide armour. It looked like it had been crushed by something heavy.

Luca was positive that the origin of the hide armour was not from any creature that roamed the Verdant Kingdoms, but nobody was willing to draw any conclusions. The rat-man was carrying a crude scimitar and a cat-of-nine-tails with vicious looking barbs at the end which contained bits of torn, pinkish flesh with rough black hairs on it. It also carried several queer looking coins of copper, brass and silver. Luca decided to pocket those. Inspecting the corpse, the creature didn’t have the same whip- or bind-marks that were found on the other rat-men. The conclusion was that this one was likely a taskmaster whose charge had turned against it.

Investigating the room, it was clear from the way the moss was growing that there had been some heavy objects, furniture or items removed from the room.

Upon departing the room the faint noise of battle could be heard. The adventurers decided to take a corridor in the direction of the noise in order to investigate. Soon, they came upon a group of five rat-men, being lead by a sixth; the albino. The corridor was too narrow for everyone to make themselves optimally useful, but Astrid and Marcus stood side by side, cutting down the front ranks of the rat-men, while Luca and Emma were calling upon their powers to send bolts of darkness and light to attack the albino. The rats fought viciously and the albino responded in kind by sending file bolts of green energy into Luca’s chest.

In no-time the ranks of the rat-men thinned and the albino was gravely wounded. It hurled an egg into the midst of the fray, which cracked to reveal the diseased, dead fetus of a strange, slimy creature, which immediately started generating an enormous amount of thick, noxious, green gas. Soon, the adventurers were coughing and retching, incapable of continuing the fight, while the albino and its few remaining rat-men retreated back the way they came.

The Return to House Sheridan

Second Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

The rat-men lay dead at the feet of the adventurers while the albino got away. The adventurers quietly discussed what to do next and the popular opinion was to go back to report to Lord Jonathan what they had found in the catacombs. The adventurers saw no way to resolve the problem on their own and thought that the next best thing would be to share their findings. The idea was raised to bring one of the corpses as proof, which was immediately refined since dragging an entire body with them would likely prove to be burdensome. And so Astrid, with all the pragmatism of a butcher, began to separate one of the rat-men’s heads from its torso, put it in a sack and slung it over her shoulder.

Meanwhile, Luca was examining the rat-men and had discovered that many of them had what appeared to be lash marks and scarring around their wrists and ankles, much like what the adventurers had seen on the body of the dwarven engineer. The conclusion was that some, if not all of them, were or had been slaves. The weapons they used seemed strange, poorly maintained and scavenged. The leathers they used for armour was of a strange source that none of the adventurers could really place.

Finally, the adventurers left the hall and tried to make their way back to the aqueduct. James took the lead, trying to stay as far ahead of the rest of the group so that he would not be bothered by the lantern they were carrying to guide their way, nor be too affected by the clumsy way in which their footsteps and movements were echoing through the catacombs. Emrys took up the rear, also making sure to stay out of range of the light and noise coming from the humans in their group.

James started to notice sounds off in the distance and waited for the rest of the group to catch up. Quietly it was decided that James and Emrys would sneak towards the sound, to make sure that it was not a threat, while Luca, Emma and Astrid would continue back to the aqueduct using the lantern to guide them.

The humans set off. At each junction Emma checked for traces of the markings she had left behind on the walls with the hammer and chisel she took from the equipment of the dwarven engineers. Luca confident in the knowledge that they took a left turn at every junction, simply took a right turn in order to get back. Astrid simply followed.

James and Emrys, guided by their elven ability to see in the darkness of the catacombs, using nothing more than the faint light coming from the bio-luminescent moss. Eventually, they start to get closer to the sounds, and what they first mistook for sounds of stone-on-stone, or metal-on-stone, they could clearly discern to be sounds of battle.

Meanwhile, Emma felt her heart sink when at the next junction she no longer found her markings. Luca, somewhat annoyed, said that it was a simple matter of take right turns at each junction. They continued on, but Emma’s conviction that something was wrong grew evermore.

James and Emrys finally followed the sounds to a dead end chamber with a drain in the middle of it. Drainpipes fed into the chamber from the height of a full grown man’s chest in each wall. A faint bit of light a large amount of noise was coming from one of the drain pipes and the two adventurers moved towards it and looked inside.

You follow the muffled sounds of battle, vicious screeching as well as the ringing of steel, to a room which appears to be a dead end. The room holds a central drain which is fed from several circular holes in the walls at the height of a full grown man’s chest. The battle is being waged beyond one of these holes, you’re sure of it.

After a brief moment of concentration you make your way to one of the holes. It has light coming from beyond it and the sounds seem to be clearer when you approach.

You gather around the large hole and look inside. The drain is about an arm in length, and has thick, cast iron bars set vertically in the center of it. The bottom of the drain, as well as most of the bars are covered in a slimy, green muck, collected there over long centuries.

On the other side of the drain you look out into a large room whose floor starts at the drain’s entrance. The source of light becomes immediately apparent as you see four heavily armed and armoured knights stand, defensively, in a circle of light coming from the blade of a fifth knight who is standing in the middle. They are probably at least a dozen paces away from the drain’s entrance you are peering through.

The central knight is wearing a plate armour, engraved with an intricate feather pattern, gilded in lapis lazuli. The other four are dressed in polished plate armour as well, engraved with paisley and floral designs. Two of them wearing armour which is gilded in silver and platinum, one carrying a sword, the other carrying a halberd. The remaining two are carrying swords and shields and their armour is gilded in vermilion.

They seem to have been surrounded by a large host of the rat-men, and they are listening intently at orders being barked by the central knight as the rat-men move in on them. A dozen rat-men already lay dead at their feet.

“Gloria!” the central knight bellows. “Desideratus bellum!” the other knights exclaim in unison, just before the second wave of rat-men engage.

The knights are out-numbered at least three to one, and initially they manage to fend off the attack well. Eventually, despite their tight formation, several of the rat-men manage to drive a wedge between them and slowly start to break their ranks.

One of the knights in the silver gilded armour eventually goes down under a barrage of attacks. Her screams turn into a gurgle as her lungs fill up with blood. A coordinated rush from both shield-bearers clear the rat-men from the body of their fallen comrade and the rat-men are pushed back.

The central knight in the lapis lazuli sweeps a dangerous arc with his sword, battering aside several rat-men from their exposed flank, quickly turns around and kneels at the side of their wounded comrade. A halo of light appears to surround his head as he touches his free hand on the forehead of the fallen knight.

Miraculously, the wounded knight is pulled back to her feet and she quickly picks up her halberd to rejoin the fight. Strengthened by her resurrection, the five continue to press into the rat-men and wear away at their numbers. The tide quickly turns, the rat-men find themselves fighting less favourable odds and they start to vanish back into the shadows.

The five take a moment to asses their wounds and quickly assert that they will continue.

“Decerte!” the knight in the blue gilded armour barks. “Adversa!” the other return in unison, before all running out of sight.

Before the knights departed, James caught their attention and they crowded around the drain pipe. Conversation was difficult because of the difference in height of the rooms the two parties were standing in. The knight with the radiant sword introduces himself as Ser Arman de Courtenay and explains that he and the other knights had gone into the catacombs from the Courtenay estate close to Lynnecombe. The knights had been fighting a running battle with the vermin who also seem to have been under the leadership of an albino.

They asked why James and Emrys were down there and they explained that they were working for house Sheridan. Ser Arman concluded that both estates had been attacked. When James and Emrys told about their plan to return to the estate, he warned them to burn any of the diseased bodies. He also explained that he and his fellows would continue on to find the source, which they later took to mean the source of the disease.

It was during this time that the human adventurers walked straight into an ambush. Luckily the number of ambushers was small, which they later attributed to the knights having fought a great number of them at the same time. While the adventurers made short work of the ambushers, Emma did get viciously stabbed in her side and left her wounded.

After the fight, they returned back to the last junction where Emma saw the markings on the wall. Confident, they continued on to the next junction where the markings were missing. There, upon further inspection, they noticed that like a mirage, the markings suddenly reappeared. They had been tricked by illusions and foul sorcery. They continued on, now more the wiser and determined not to fall for the rat-men’s tricks again.

Astrid tried to support Emma as they walked, but instead, Emma suggested swapping weapons so that she could use Astrid’s spear as a crutch while Astrid could make use of Emma’s mace and carry Emma’s shield on her back.

James and Emrys found their way back to the aqueduct but found no traces of the other group. They decided to split up, James staying behind to scout out the catacombs and await the other group’s return, while Emrys made his way down the aqueduct and back to the well to get reinforcements. They decided it prudent to burn the body of the diseased guardsman on the way back so James handed his remaining oil to Emrys.

While Emrys makes sure to thoroughly burn the body of the Sheridan guard, James finds more places where tunnels have been dug. Some of them have been dug to reveal other catacombs, some of them have been dug and left abandoned, while some have been dug to reveal hidden chambers. It appeared to James as if the rat-men were looking for something.

Upon returning to the well, Emrys talks to Cpt. Hallis Mollen, who takes a quick account of the situation and frees up three guardsmen to come down and aid Emrys. They set off back up the aqueduct.

James, getting impatient, decides to start making a ruckus in the hopes of attracting the attention of the rest of the group. The plan works and he is once again reunited with Luca, Emma and Astrid. It is around this time that Emrys returns to the catacombs with the three guards. A decision is made to return to the estate, taking the dead guards back with them. By the time the group arrives back at the well, it is deep into the evening and the three moons are visible in the clear night’s sky.

A late night audience is arranged with the members of house Sheridan, but first the adventurers get a chance to freshen up and make themselves presentable. Astrid hands the severed rat-man’s head to Cpt. Hallis.

Third Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

Upon entering the Sheridan mansion, James decides to surreptitiously leave a mug of beer he was given as one of the refreshments behind on a shelf of books on the first floor of the mansion.

The audience with the members of house Sheridan takes place in the study on the third floor, where they were initially introduced to Lord Jonathan. The defacto head of house Sheridan is this time flanked by his brother Lord Marcus on one side, and Ser Benten the Purple on the other side. It becomes clear now that Ser Benten is even taller and more impressive in stature than the two noble brothers are. The balcony door is still open, letting in some fresh evening air. The elderly patron of the house is sitting in a wheelchair, his back turned to the open door, looking out over his estate.

In quick order the adventurers told Lord Jonathan about what they had encountered in the aqueduct and the catacombs beyond. Lord Jonathan concluded that while the adventurers had not achieved the goals he had set out for them, he did believe that they had risked themselves enough to be paid what they were owed. He did, however, want them to go back down after a good night’s rest, while Cpt. Hallis kept a close watch on the well’s entrance. The adventurers were to make sure that the infestation of vermin was brought under control and that the tunnel whose rubble blocked the aqueduct was sealed and running water was restored to the well.

When Lord Jonathan asked whether the adventurers needed anything, Emma said she required healing. When it became clear that Emma’s health was worse than her wound would suggest, it was decided to quarantine her to the stables and that Ser Benten would tend to her. Cpt. Hallis then brought the adventurers back to the servant’s quarters, where Astrid was given a room, and Luca, James and Emrys were given a room. She also brought Emma to the stables, where a cot was erected for her to sleep on.

Ser Benten did come by to see Emma, who was busy washing herself in her nightly ritual of worship. He looked at her wound and concluded that he could do little for it. He said that what she needed was the aid of a high ranking priest, like the one that could be found at the Cathedral of the Platinum Father in Kingsport. He told her that in all likelihood, the closest person to aid her was Ser Arman de Courtenay, down in the catacombs below Lynnecombe. He did give her a pendant, with a clear orange crystal and said that it would prevent the spread of her malady and aid her in fighting its creeping affliction.

Meanwhile, James, who had not been content in the quarters he’d been given, had taken to roaming the servant’s quarters in search of a better place to sleep. He tried to convince a guard but got nowhere, and ended up picking the lock on a trapdoor leading to the attic, where he nestled himself in a pile of old clothes and drapes.