Tag: Crimson Tower

A Swift Return to Kingsport

Previously, the heroes had settled the crusaders in a make-shift camp at the abandoned village off the eastern shore of Lake Llygad as the inhabitants of Pinefall were preparing to celebrate Highharvestide. Plans were made to have the griffon riders fly the heroes bback to Kingsport so that they could present the crusader leadership to court.

Highharvestide, 1262

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

While Emrys, Emma and Luca had returned back to the camp at the abandoned village, Astrid, James and Quentin stayed behind in Bristlecone to make sure that none of the crusaders would return to cause any more trouble. Whether it was the Darkmoon standing in high sanction in the sky, or the darkness that some of the crusaders were marked by, the heroes were not sure if the villagers of Bristlecone would be safe that night.

They were offered blankets and a place at the fire in the came of the visitors from Hunter’s Hollar, but despite that hospitality, the night was a long and uncomfortable one.

First Day, First Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

After a restless but uneventful night, Astrid, James and Quentin awaken underneath blankets heavy with dew. The visitors from Hunter’s Hollar were slowly waking up and getting ready to head back to their settlement in the forest. Goodbyes were exchanged quietly and without much fanfare or ceremony and the heroes walked back to the camp at the abandoned village in the early light of the morning.

Back at the crusader camp people are getting up at a much slower pace. It is the first morning they’ve spent outside of Atilesceon’s hellish realm for countless years and they were taking a moment to let it sink in that this suffering had come to an end.

Luca decided to bring Dame Victoria some breakfast. He found her in her bedroll quietly laying on her side with her eyes open. Not crying, but just laying still. When he offered her the food she gave him the briefest smile. They sat together, quietly eating.

When the others returned to camp they decided to get breakfast. Quentin made it a point to greet Dame Josephine, but as always she was preoccupied with talking to her squires and only had time to give him a small acknowledgement. She was cold and distant. He decided to talk to Dalinda instead, asking her if the griffon riders would be ready to depart soon, to which the designated translator responded that it would take another hour before departure.

Quentin decided to take the time to talk to Emrys about the possibility of using magic to disguise his sword. The scabbard was constantly sprouting thorny vines with roses on them and a simple blanket was not enough to stop that from showing, and so he was hoping Emrys could help out. Unfortunately, Emrys only had so many tools in his belt and it wouldn’t be enough to help Quentin. Overhearing this conversation, James suggested that perhaps it was the fact that Quentin held the sword that made it bloom and to try letting someone else carry to sword back to Kingsport to see if that made a difference. He suggested Emma, someone that most people in the party trusted.

First, however, Quentin asked Luca if he could use his magic to find out more information about the properties of the sword. Luca still had one of the required components that were necessary for the ritual, a pearl, and went ahead with it. He found out that the sword’s name was Róisín, and that it bestowed the wielder with wondrous abilities, provided the wielder was willing to bond with the weapon, committing to it, at least temporarily. Quentin had a lot to think about.

In the meantime, villagers from Bristlecone had come to see Lord Destan off, bringing with them a cart of his possessions, as well as the possessions of the heroes that they left behind at the Rudwick barton when they left for the Crimson Tower. They also brought gifts and well-wishings for Destan to take back to his lord father. Destan once again strained to play the good lord.

One of the people to join the well-wishers was Coranthe, mother to the witless Robart. She had brought her grandchildren Loke and Millie with her to bid the good lord farewell. While James was contemplating all of the belongings that the heroes had been carrying around in the chest that the Sheridans had provided to them upon departure from Lynnecombe, Millie came up to the group and proclaimed that she had found the perfect name for their company.

Months before, when the heroes had arrived in Pinefall and had made Millie’s acquaintance, she claimed that every company should have a name, and she vowed that she would think of a suitable name for them. “The Heroes of the White Eye,” she claimed. She had been told what the heroes had done, and the part that her father had played in it. Lake Llygad, once called Lake Gwenllygad, or Lake of the White Eye as it was known in the elder tongue of the elves, had been liberated by the heroes, and so the name of their company should recognise that fact.

James thanked her very much for the suggestions and proceeded to unload all of the belongings from the chest into his magical bag. He then gifted the young Millie with a gold crown, which she promptly took to her brother Loke in order to make him jealous.

It was time to depart. The griffons had been saddled with a double-saddle and special bags that would allow them to carry some food with them. Everyone found their rider and the birds made their way to the field where months before the heroes had met the Szygani group. They mounted the enormous monstrosities and took off.

When the wings start beating on either side of you, it kicks up pine needles from the ground, creating a pleasant scent in the crisp air. The birds quickly find lift and you are pushed into your saddle. It’s remarkable just how fast they take off, across the lake, making one last pass along the innocent looking, broken tower, before veering south.

Flying in a perfect v formation, Tourbillon at the front, the wind around you slowly warms up in the light of the rising sun. Your eyes quickly adjust to the rush and stop tearing up, allowing you to take a good look around you. You’re probably flying about 600 feet off the ground for most of the way, the tops of the trees rising and falling with the Silverpine hills below you.

Midway through the morning the landscape starts to change slowly; the hills become less rugged and the pine trees give way to the yellow, orange and red autumn colours of the deciduous trees of the Riverlands. The woods below you becomes thicker and neigh impenetrable at times. When the woods offer a peek, it is to reveal one of the countless little rivers, brooks and streams that give the Riverlands its name.

Occasionally you notice larger flying predators rise up from the trees and wisely turning their tail from the path of the flying monstrosities that are carrying you across the kingdom. At one point, you see two wyverns in the distance veer off to the north. Later, you notice a group of harpies who make their nests in the tops of the trees below you cower and flee at the sight of the griffons.

A little past noon, after having flown through a freezing rain storm, the riders signal to each other to prepare for landing. The griffons touch down close to a river that Luca estimates to be the Bray, which leads south, past Brayford, towards the Bourne. The griffons take their rest and feed off the food taken from Bristlecone. Everyone gets a chance to eat, rest and dry their clothing near a fire.

After about an hour, you once again take flight and start heading towards the south-west. The landscape becomes more hospitable and you can see farms, villages, fields and the occasional keep. Villagers and farmers stop their work and observe the strange formation of birds flying overhead. Some of them run for safety in their huts and hovels.

Soon after, you see a familiar cobbled road below you and the traffic starts to pick up. You have reached the Silesian Road. To your left you can spot the glint off the waves from the Lyrian gulf, with fishing vessels dotting the waves, sailing the day’s haul back to port. To your right you can see the fields of freshly harvested wheat, barley, oats and sorghum. The air is alive with the sounds seagulls coming from the south and the wind carries traces of dried hay which lies stacked in enormous round bales on cleared fields to the north.

Mid-afternoon you fly over a t-junction and you see the familiar Inn at the Crossroads. About an hour later you see Gheolgothis, the enormous tree that marks the Seat of Friendship. You keep following the coastline and soon after, you notice small plumes of smoke coming off of the wood fires around Kingsport. You start to make out the city’s ramparts, you see the large lighthouse atop the Bastion of Illumination and splendour of the royal palace on Garamond hill.

When you get nearer, a group of griffon riders can be seen headed your way. For all who have stayed in Kingsport it is easy to recognise Dame Miranda Ravensbourne, the captain of the Crownsguard, sitting astride Frostfeather at the front of the formation. When the two groups meet, a brief flash of signals are exchanged between them, seemingly perfectly understood by the riders of both companies.

Dame Miranda turns Frostfeather around and both companies fall in line as she leads them away to a field just north of the city, across the river from the Corbray Gate, where both groups make for a landing. Once on the ground, the crusaders dismount their griffons and step forward. A small group of people have gathered in the field in preparation for their arrival.

Two among them are very familiar to you, Ser Benten the Purple, with his dark grey hair, and Lord Marcus with his red-brown hair. Both of them stand at an obscene 7 foot, sticking out above the Sheridan guards, Lyrian knights and Crownsguard accompanying them.

Besides Dame Miranda, the Crownguard and Lyrian knights that came to welcome the heroes back to Kingsport, there were three other people of note; lieutenant William of Eastwarren, the handsome head of the palace guard, Lady Annabella Waxley, the queen’s handmaiden and a man introduced as Ser Roderick Corbray, representative of the Order of the Lance in Kingsport.

The heroes took the time to explain the situation to Dame Miranda and Ser Roderick Corbray. Upon the realisation of Prior Benedict’s identity, Ser Roderick fell to his knees in front of the prior and made the sign of Paladine and muttered something about “saint Benedict”. This further deepened the understanding among some of the heroes of the implications of the crusaders’ return.

In the meantime, Lord Destan was reunited with his brother Marcus and their mentor Ser Benten. The brothers shared a tender moment together before the heroes joined them in conversation. It was the Sheridan’s intention to return to Lynnecombe and the heroes were invited to come up to the Sheridan estate to claim their reward.

The strange missive which had been sent to Falka at the Bournemouth academy while she was helping the heroes do research into the Crimson Tower and the Age of Fear was brought to Ser Benten’s attention. He explained that shortly after the heroes departed Kingsport the estate had seen a burglary and one of the things that was stolen was Lord John’s seal. This, Benten offered, could be an explanation for the letter, but he assured the heroes that the letter was not genuine.

Lady Annabella approached Emma and asked her if they could speak in private for a moment; an invitation Emma accepted. They turned away to walk together for a moment, but not before Annabella made eye contact with Emrys. Her glance gave him the impression that he would be seeing more of her in the near future. Lieutenant William followed at a discrete distance as they spoke together.

The heroes revealed to Dame Miranda and Ser Roderick that they wanted to get an audience with the queen in order to inform her of the situation. Dame Miranda explained that the queen had fallen ill and that Lord Gabriel Valois-Antille, the Steward of Kingsport had taken over the duties during her majesty’s absence. The heroes decided that an audience with the steward was in order and they agreed with Dame Miranda that their travel through Kingsport would best be done more subtly and so carriages were arranged for those attending the audience.

The griffon riders, with the exception of Dame Josephine, stayed behind with Ser Roderick and Dame Miranda’s knights in order to take care of the griffons, while the others joined the heroes in the carriages. James, eager to take in the sights, sounds and smells of his beloved city once again decided to ride up front of the coach instead. They passed through the Corbray gate, down the Corbray Street toward the Elysian Street toward Steward Square. They crossed Queensbridge and went up Garamond Hill along Palace Road to reach the palace gates.

Once inside the walls, the group were lead through the spectacular garden, making note that the flowers on the gate to the water gardens were fiercely blooming, possibly influenced by Bláthnaid, the spring blessed by Emma upon request of the queen, all those months ago. Lead into the palace, through elaborately decorated rooms with painted walls and polished, wooden floors until they were lead into a modest throne room and were confronted by a group of sycophantic courtiers surrounding the steward, who did not turn out to be as receptive to the message that the group was presenting.

The steward claimed that he had more important matters to be concerned about and he rattled off a couple of things that were occurring in the kingdom that the heroes had missed in the last couple of months. He charged House Sheridan with stewarding the crusaders, since they came to Lyria on their lands. He did not care about them as long as they paid the taxes that anyone in Lyria owed the crown.

And so, the heroes departed the palace. It was getting late and the Sheridans departed for Lynnecombe, the lyrian knights departed for Correntine where the knightly orders made their home, and the heroes went to the Careless Wanderer. All except James and Emma. Emma went to the Sacred Baths of Sedna, while James headed to the Silver Cross.

Arriving at the Silver Cross, he was greeted by Samuel, the bartender and custodian of the brothel who James had looked up to while growing up. While sharing a stiff drink at a distance from the other patrons in the establishment, he shared some troubling news; in James’ absence, the guild had gone through a war with the Sunken Knuckles that lead to the violent death of the Knuckles’ leader Lydia. It had cost the guild lives and territory that they were reclaiming now that the Knuckles were fighting over who got to take charge of the gang. In the meantime, James’ mother had held an appointment with the Day Master at his butcher shop on Fleet Street in the Southside Ward, as she did regularly. However, she never returned from this particular date. Several requests by Madam Valerie, the owner of the Silver Cross, were ignored and the madam stopped paying her dues in protest.

Troubling news, made all the worst by the fact that his attic room had been cleared out. Madam Valerie had asked Samuel to remove James’ belongings when it appeared that James might not be coming home. Samuel taken James’ belongings for safe keeping, but for now, James had to find a place to sleep elsewhere.

Highharvestide Celebration

Previously, the heroes had returned to Pinefall with over four hundred rescued crusaders and came face to face with Lord Destan, alive and well in the care of the witch Isobel. After a conversation with the villagers of Bristlecone aid was sent to the abandoned village where the crusaders would make a temporary home. Food, blankets and tents were provided. The conversation quickly turned to what to do next, and it seemed like the crusaders were not as unified as the heroes had liked. Some had thoughts of returning to their orders, some wanted to live a quiet life and some seemed to have darker goals in mind.

Highharvestide, 1262

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

When everyone was getting settled in at the abandoned village, Luca took the opportunity to speak to Dame Josephine, by way of a translator, to inform her about the current political landscape and the general history of Lyria and the different dynastic families that held the royal seat.

The Celtician listened intently, in particular about King Philip d’Aragon, third of his name, who decreed that women were equal to men under the law, in all matters of inheritance, including in rights of succession. This is how the Valois dynasty started. A dynasty Dame Josephine belonged to and was arguably the most senior member of.

A decision was made by the heroes and the senior leadership of the crusaders that the court should be made aware of the crusader’s presence in the Silverpine Hills, especially considering many of them had no intention of returning to the orders they once belonged to. The court would want to know that a small army of strangers had appeared in the heartland.

A plan was hatched to use the griffons to fly to Kingsport. Dame Josephine would fly on Tourbillon and Lord Destan would fly with her as a passenger. Prior Benedict would be a passenger due to his status as the Knight Captain of the expedition, as would Ser Florianus because of his renown. Dalinda the elven translator would get a spot, as she would be invaluable in any conversations. The rest of the griffons would be used to transport the heroes.

When the plan had been formed formed and agreed upon by all parties, Emrys eagerly joined the Highharvestide festivities in Bristlecone and Astrid decided to go with him. James followed, not because he was keen on the party, but rather to keep an eye out for any of the crusaders who were out for trouble. Quentin went as well and made an attempt to hide the scabbard of his sword by wrapping it in a blanket, only to find that the thorny roses bloomed straight through the cloth.

When they arrived in Bristlecone they found that the villagers had set up tables and bonfires around the bridge across the small river. They shared pastries with clotted cream and jam, honeyed apples, rich stews with mutton, cloves and parsley, and tankards of rich Fulham ale. The inhabitants of the hollar had travelled down to Bristlecone and had laid out their assortments of foraged nuts, berries and mushrooms and some they were roasting a large dear over an open fire, glazing and basting it with honey and forest thyme.

As the visitors arrived the villagers seemed well prepared. Children gawked a little but were quickly distracted by the dog breeders’ puppies and the face paints that one of the villagers was decorating them with. They soon went back to pretending to be bears and wolves.

For a while the festivities were pleasant. But as the evening set in the mood started to turn. The mood of a  small number of the crusaders, armsmen mostly, had turned sour ant their demeanour became hostile. The heroes were quick to pick up on this shift and came up with several plans in order to get the crusaders to depart back to their camp at the abandoned village.

James put Astrid to the task of causing as much awkwardness as she possibly could, trying to dissuade the crusaders from lingering at the feast. Emrys tried to perform a song meant to convince the crusaders to wrap things up and head back. Quentin decided to load up a cart of food and drinks to lure the crusaders back to camp. Together they managed to convince those crusaders who had no or few bad intentions to retire, but a small, persistent group of trouble seekers stubbornly stayed behind.

Eventually, Destan is convinced to tell the Bristlecone villagers to return to their homes and cease the festivities. Due to the visitors from Hunter’s Hollar having plans to camp out before heading back to the hollar in the morning, the troublesome crusaders continued to have a place to gather and look for entertainment. Frederick, the foppish Daerlanian who was the defacto leader of the people of Hunter’s Hollar tried to diffuse the situation, with little success, considering the language barrier.

While all of this had been happening, Luca and Emma had stayed behind in camp. Emma had been tending to the needs of all the shell shocked crusaders and Luca had been taking care of Dame Victoria Greywater, the knight that Emma had inhabited during her time in Old Llygad. She had a fragile mind and was prone to bouts of crying. It would be the perfect victim to Blackstar’s incessant hunger. The staff had been more forceful and communicative since returning to Pinefall and Luca though that nobody would miss Dame Victoria and her constant wailing.

When Dame Victoria had found a moment of calm, which were few and far between, Luca convinced her to lay down to sleep. He made note of who was sleeping where and how easily it would be to prey upon her. He found Emma, and the two decided to head for Bristlecone.

Once there they were quickly informed of the situation and decided to help the rest of the heroes get the unruly crusaders in line. Luca ended up charming several crusaders to come back with him to camp. On the way he changed his mind on Dame Victoria and decided to single out one of the unruly crusaders instead. He lured the armsman into the woods where he murdered him with rays of fire after a short struggle. Blackstar seemed satisfied.

Having no other way to hide the charred corpse, Luca went down on both knees and spent a long time digging in the dirt with his bare hands in order to create a shallow grave in which he could hide the corpse. He paid for the hastily hidden corpse with dirtied and bloodied fingers. He hoped it would be enough.

Back at the bridge things escalated quickly as Astrid and James engaged the last remaining trouble makers. Before the injuries escalated beyond black eyes and broken noses Emrys used his magic to make a bonfire nearby explode in coloured fireworks. Everything came to a screeching halt at that display and in that moment, the remaining crusaders decided to avoid bloodshed and return to camp.

Emrys and Emma returned to camp as well, while Quentin, James and Astrid decided to stay behind, just in case.

New Beginnings

Previously, the heroes had just defeated Atilesceon and were looking to find a way from Old Llygad back to Pinefall. With the portal at the top of the Crimson Tower no longer operational they decided to use the crossing at Isobel’s Vale to come home. The ritual, however, would require many voluntary sacrifices, and Emrys was tasked to convince some of the crusaders to step forward. They managed to perform the ritual and bring over four hundred of the surviving crusaders back, but not before first making a stop in the Feywild, speaking to Yathaghera, the unicorn guardian of the crossing and bartering for their way home with a geis; a debt to a powerful archfey.

Highharvestide, 1262

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

After the scintilating colours of the fey crossing had withdrawn, the heroes and their host of crusaders found themselves standing knee deep in the pond behind Isobel’s hut. The water was cold and there was a crispness in the air. The pines had turned a darker shade and the forest floor was riddled with pine cones and needles. Summer had made place for autumn.

Isobel stood waiting for them at the edge of the pond, dressed for the weather, smoking a pipe. She was carrying blankets but when she saw just how many had showed up she realised that she did not have enough.

At her side stood a seven foot tall man wearing simple clothing that was several sizes to small for him, like a grownup wearing the clothes of a child. Lord Destan, carrying a stack of blankets, just like Isobel. He looked well; or as well as could be expected.

When everyone was getting their bearing slowly the crusaders started to move toward the edge of the pond. Because of the language barrier several people stepped forward who spoke the languages of the elder races, since those had changed far less radically than Lyrian. The most prominent of these were an elven armsman named Dalinda and Ser Kadagar Ashbeard, the dwarven knight that was part of the expedition.

The first order of business was to explain to the crusaders where they were and when they were; some of them had not grasped how long they had been stuck in Old Llygad, or didn’t realise that time was continuing on while they relived the same day over and over.

As the news of the time lapse travels through the camp, causing consternation among the crusaders, the conversation turns to food. Due to the nature of the ritual, the crusaders were able to return only with some personal items. They have no provisions or means for survival. Emma is able to call upon the grace of Sedna, but nowhere near to the extent which is necessary to provide for the crusaders. Shelter is also an issue, but an idea is formed to move the crusaders to the nearby abandoned village.

Here and there, crusaders are gathering wood to make some fires. The wind is chilly and their wet boots and socks need to be dried. Emma goes to console Dame Victoria Greywater whom she inhabited while in Old Llygad. Astrid and Ser Gregorian seem to be staying away from one another, but Ser Edric and Destan meet for a warm embrace.

Emrys and Luca speak to Isobel about the crusaders and what to do with them. Isobel also shares that it’s Highharvestide, and that the villagers are preparing for a celebration. The realisation that it’s already mid-autumn turns their interest to whether the weather will hold, and the witch reaches into a satchel to retrieve some berries which she crushes in her hand. She licks the paste and tastes the air, predicting another two rides before the weather will turn foul and prevent travel.

Lord Destan and Quentin briefly speak about being separated, the retrieval of the sword of flowers and Ser Estienne’s fate. Destan mentions that the sword seems to have changed somewhat since they both laid eyes on it in Old Llygad. The scabbard it rests in is covered in thorny vines bearer vibrant red roses which rapidly grow, bloom and wither away. It seems more alive than it was before.

The heroes realise that many of the items that they gathered while in Old Llygad are still with their respective hosts. Luca speaks to Ser Florianus through a translator to get his items back, and James does the same with Dame Josephine, who seems more occupied with a restless Tourbillon. James offers to help by sharing a cured ham that James had squirrelled away in his magical bag. The large raptor devoured it and screeched for more, unappeased. Dame Josephine returned James his items and declined his invitation to share his fire with her.

Meanwhile, Ser Gregorian shares some of his clothing with Destan in an attempt to make him look a little bit more presentable. The idea is hatched to go by Rudwick’s farm to pick up the items that the heroes and Destan left behind before their departure to the other realm. Destan mentions to James that he’s happy to see him again. James doesn’t remember meeting the man. They decide to postpone a conversation on what happened until later. Destan does, however, remove the mark from James’ hand, leaving only a faint scar.

Emma decides to stay behind to council the crusaders while the rest go to Bristlecone. Their first stop is the Rudwick barton to inquire about their belongings. As they pass through the village and observe the villagers setting up tables for a large feast, they inform Gregor and Drummond, who end up meeting the group at the farm, together with Lem. After inspecting the different cottages and finding everything remained as they had left it, (Destan did mention missing a few items, like the sapphire symbol of mask, and a magnifying glass, etc.), they decided to meet at Gregor’s house to have a conversation.

At Gregor’s the conversation turns to what has transpired since the departure of the heroes. The szygani departed the abandoned village several rides ago, and recently a small island was spotted in the north-west corner of the lake that had never been there before. An old, broken tower made its home there. Also, there were rumours of a large, weathered standing stone with old, faded inscription on it had appeared on the edge of the forest. The heroes immediately identified the tower as the old Crimson Tower and the standing stone as the stone that Ser Kadagar Ashbeard had used to record his knowledge on.

Once the situation of the crusaders was explained to the three men and the conversation turned to planning on how to move forward. Lem’s estimation was that the village could comfortably take care of the crusaders for about a ride before they would be eating into the new harvest and jeopardise Pinefall’s ability to survive the coming winter. It was decided that Lem would take some of his labourers and bring supplies of food, tarps, tents and lumber to the abandoned village so that the crusaders could be house for a while.

Drummon was very interested in the different orders, the knights and their retinues. He was part of the Order of the Gryphon for such a long time that he became inundated by the stories and history of the order. For the crusaders to show up in Pinefall was for a legend to come alive.

For Gregor the story of their curse and Atilesceon’s realm was the most interesting. As well as the way in which the tower acted as a gateway and how the group returned, through the Feywild, back to Isobel’s Vale.

The group returned to Isobel’s Vale together with Gregor and Drummond. The two immediately were assigned a translator and started to have conversations with various crusaders. Dame Josephine was discovered to have released the griffons so that they may hunt for food, and was simultaneously making plans to head for Celticia to lay claim to the throne. It became clear to the heroes that not all crusaders would be keen on either rejoining the order or resurrecting the Silver Crusade.

Quentin approached Durand and asked him what his plans were. He claimed to no longer want to fight, to live the remainder of his life out in peace. Quentin tried to convince him to take up arms and join a new crusade, even going so far as wanting to knight him in order to motivate him. Durand refused the honour of being knighted, but did believe that he could possibly help by sharing what he knew.

When the crusaders finally deployed to the abandoned village they found a large tent had been set up, with several smaller tents around it. Some of the huts had been turned into make shift barracks by clearing them out and covering the collapsed roofs with tarps. The well had been cleared by the szygani when they were first warned by Drummond not to draw water from the lake, lest it bring about the ire from the Bristlecone villagers.

The conversation between the heroes became tense when James kept reiterating that if the crusaders would not follow the heroes advice they could go fuck themselves. Emma had heard him say that several times and exploded, insisting that the crusaders were undeserving of that attitude merely because they wouldn’t do what the heroes wanted them to do.

A decision was made to call a council and discuss what it was that the crusaders would want to do. Because there was no unity among the crusaders, several different people were called as representatives in the council. Destan would represent the Lyrian nobility, who would sure have an opinion on finding a small army in the Lyrian heartland. Benedict McAllister would represent the crusaders together with Ser Florianus. Dalinda would stand for the elven crusaders, who most recognised might hold different views than their human counterparts. Ser Kadagar Ashbeard stood for the dwarves. Josephine stood for the Celtician crusaders. And last, Drummond would be best suited to speak for the Lyrian Knights.

Ser Kadagar said that the dwarves were united in their opinion that they wanted to travel back to Ard Thoradun and rejoin their people. The elves were much less united. Dalinda said she wanted to go to the Palace of the White Flame and find the Lady Without Ending. She would first want to go by the Riverlands to find the elven tribe that Lauriel started in name of Mohiam to inform them of her fate.

It became clear throughout the conversation that Dame Josephine perhaps had plans beyond claiming the Beauclair throne. Her house is that of LaValette, from the lands of Les Valettes, but that she identified herself as Josephine La Valois. As such, she might have a claim to the Lyrian throne.

A tentative plan was made to use the griffons to quickly return to Kingsport and inform the throne about the presence of the crusaders. It would allow the heroes to return quickly, inform the throne, and get Lord Destan back to Lynnecombe and the Sheridan estate as quickly as possible.

The council came to a dissatisfying end. Gregor and Drummond recommended the crusaders to come over for the festivities and meet the rest of the villagers. The heroes think it’s likely not a good idea and ask Destan to decide, but he leaves the decision to them.

A Great Sacrifice

Previously, our heroes managed to infiltrate the Crimson Tower and confront Atilesceon and his disciples. The battle was hard fought and some of the company got stuck on a lower floor, which Atilesceon had flooded with a noxious cloud, killing them all. Eventually, the rest of the company brought Atilesceon down. The vengeful spirits of the doomed crusaders rose up from the tower to tear through his body and whisk him out and over the balcony railing into the lake beyond.

Third Day, Third Wik, Æftera Līþa (Pasture Mōnaþ), 736th Year of the Crusade

When quiet returned to Atilesceon’s laboratory, the heroes were overwhelmed with exhaustion. They all found place to rest, their bodies trembling from exertion and the adrenaline crash. They began to take stock of their situation and wonder what was going to be next. They didn’t know what to expect, but the emptiness that followed felt strange. Everyone dealt with it in their own way.

James went to investigate the bedroom below, to see what what could be salvaged from the bodies of Hejduk, Gorden, brother Connal and Ser Fulton. He took some of the ointments and poultices that brother Connal had on him, and took his symbol of Pholtus. He gave the healing equipment to Emma and kept the symbol for personal reasons. He then went back up to search through the laboratory for valuables.

Astrid started pacing around once she felt better, a nervous energy coming over her, and a dark look in her golden eyes. Eventually, she made her way onto the balcony to balance dangerously on the railing, holding her arms out wide like an eagle as she walked along the railing.

When Emrys felt a little better he felt like the tower should hold more of Atilesceon’s personal writings. The heroes had found some when they had first entered the tower, and he was hopeful to find more. He searched the laboratory but couldn’t find any writing that didn’t cover forging, engineering and metallurgy.

Quentin, not interested in scavenging the tower for valuables, went down to the bedroom together with Emma to take care of the bodies of the fallen. He cleaned the bodies and covered them with the sheets from Atilesceon’s bed. He took the shield of Ser Fulton, a kite shield with a wreath of three, green snakes on a white field.

Luca, interested in finding Atilesceon’s grimoire, performed a ritual that allowed him to detect the magical nature of things. What he found was somewhat disappointing; there were no major things that were left undiscovered. He found that the strange scarab-like devices that were attached to the necks of Atilesceon’s disciples were magical, and that the shield that Quentin had found was also magical in nature.

Everyone started making their way down into the study, hoping to find more of Atilesceon’s writing. They found the journal pages that they had read when the first entered the tower, finding some new ones, but nothing new or shocking. The conversation turned to what to do next. They were followed by an invisible Sadwick, who praised them for defeating Atilesceon, but peppered them with barbed comments.

A quick look up in the portal room revealed that the marble archway that they used to enter Old Llygad was dormant, cracked and broken from when Emrys passed through it, disrupting its magic.

Slowly the heroes started to realise that they would have to leave Old Llygad using the Ritual of Returning, which carried a heavy price, especially if they wanted to rescue the crusaders as well. When would they leave? How would they find enough sacrifices? For every ten people returning, one person would have to volunteer as a sacrifice.

The heroes decided to depart the tower, taking the bodies of the fallen with them, leaving Sadwick behind. Emma once again called upon the blessings of the protector of streams to allow them to tread on water and carry the fallen to shore where they met up with several priests of Pholtus who were cremating the last of the crusaders who had fallen in battle. The priests let the heroes use their carts to transport the fallen back to the camp.

Once there, Emrys held a speech in front of the entire camp, heralding the defeat of Atilesceon and calling for preparations to be made for the departure. He would inform the camp the following morning about what would need to happen for their departure to be a success.

Inside the commander’s tent a conversation was held with a close knit group of people about how to prepare the crusaders for the news that their departure would come with a heavy price. The choice was made to rip the bandage off fast and cleanly and not let the crusaders remain in doubt for longer than necessary. Emrys had a difficult task ahead of him convincing one person for every ten to sacrifice themselves.

To everyone’s surprise, Ser Estienne stepped forward and willingly submitted himself to be one of the people to be sacrificed. Quentin, especially, was shocked at the statement made by the legendary knight, but Ser Estienne seemed steadfast.

When Quentin took him aside to talk to him, Estienne explained that he knew that he would not survive the departure from Old Llygad. He had made a pact with the Fleur, the Sword of Flowers, long ago; he would borrow part of her essence to maintain his sanity. Now that the crusaders were saved it was a debt that he would soon have to make good on. Quentin, perhaps not realising just how literal Estienne was being, tried to convince him that there was a future for him, but instead Estienne told him to kneel. Estienne took Fleur and spoke the ancient words and knighted Quentin. He then gifted Fleur to Quentin, fulfilling the young knight’s long held goal.

Fourth Day, Third Wik, Æftera Līþa (Pasture Mōnaþ), 736th Year of the Crusade

The following morning there was a gathering of knights outside of the commander’s tent. Several armsmen and civilians who had gotten wind of the announcement that Emrys was going to make to the knights had also joined, albeit at a distance. Emrys explained the situation and explained the sacrifice that would have to be made. He also explained that the sacrifice would have to be completely voluntary; one last toll that Old Llygad was to exact from the crusaders. One knight stepped forward, willing to put his life down so that his squire and armsmen may depart from Old Llygad. It became clear to Emrys that he would have to address the civilians as well, and so he did. He gave everyone until the end of the day to decide whether or not they would want to be a voluntary sacrifice for the others.

At the end of the day enough people presented themselves. One of the animal handlers was willing to sacrifice himself so that the griffons may be transported away from Old Llygad, too. Emrys organised for a ceremony, to commemorate the men and women who would lay down their lives.

During this time, Emma and Luca went to round up all of the priests in order to go over the ritual together, making sure that all of them would be able and willing to perform the ritual, including the sacrifice, come morning.

Fifth Day, Third Wik, Æftera Līþa (Pasture Mōnaþ), 736th Year of the Crusade

The following morning, Emma and the priests lead the volunteers in prayers, blessing them for their service, while Ser Kadagar Ashbeard and his armsmen chiselled their names into the standing stone on the edge of the woods into which they’ve been chronicling all of their knowledge.

The crusaders gathered up their belongings, at least all of that which they could carry, and a long procession was held towards the lake, and south along the shores, passing by the Crimson Tower one last time. The entire crusade made their way to Isobel’s Vale and there the first group, consisting of James, Quentin, Astrid, Ser Edric the Strong and Estienne’s retinue, stepped into the shallow end of the pond to perform the ritual. Estienne was the sacrifice while Luca performed the ritual.

In the meantime, other groups gathered around along the edge of the pond as well. For each group, the experience was much the same. The water at their feet started to radiate with scintillating colours, while butterflies, dragonflies and fireflies started to buzz around. The lights became brighter and brighter, so much as to overwhelm the senses. When it finally died down again, each group found themselves standing at the edge of a pond in a vibrant vale, surrounded by fragrant wild flowers, impressively lush trees and a warm, pleasant breeze in the air.

The pond was surrounded by all manner of sylphs, dryads, faeries, pixies, brownies and butterflies. There were fawns and foxes with strange antlers and fluffy rabbits with remarkable fangs. Satyrs were darting in and out of the shadows, observing the ever growing group of crusaders standing ankle deep in the waters of the pond.

Eventually, a great, white unicorn materialised on the opposite end of the pond. It had an impressive, spiralling ivory horn jutting from its forehead. It stood as tall as a warhorse, and its fur was white and unblemished. Its braided mane, tail, beard and fetlocks were the colour of light honey. When it spoke to the group, its voice materialised in their thoughts like a warm blanket.

It introduced itself as Yathaghera, the Guardian of the Crossing, a servant to Lurue, the Unicorn Queen and the Queen of Talking Beasts. It was charged to protect this crossing by Titiana, the Summer Queen and explained that the crossing between the Feywild and Minauros shouldn’t have existed, considering the Seal of Divine Animus. It could, therefore, not allow the group to pass, together with the crusaders.

It could, however, transport the heroes and crusaders back to Pinefall if the heroes were willing to accept a debt; they would at one point be required to perform a quest for Queen Titiana. They would be bound to this debt, should they accept, and Yathaghera promised that the quest would be a fair one, within the capabilities of the heroes to perform it.

The heroes accepted and once again, the fireflies and dragonflies surrounded them as the water started to radiate colours. When the light died away, they found themselves standing in the noticeably colder waters of the pond. At the edge of the pond stood Isobel, carrying a stack of blankets and towels. Next to her stood a remarkably tall man, dressed in simple clothes that were much to short for him; Lord Destan, back in his own body and awake.

The heroes had finally made it back.

Atilesceon the Artificer

Previously, the heroes had dealt with the fallout of the victory at Old Llygad and in its wake made a plan to assault the Crimson Tower. They got a small group together and made their way across the lake, blessed by Sedna to allow them to walk across water. They defeated one of the guardian elementals, and made it through the protective dome. Inside the tower they found much like it was the first time they entered, but found a small imp named Sadwick who had been stalking them. Sadwick was one of Atilesceon’s companions, but one who was tired of being obedient to the artificer. As they ascended the tower they came across a group of horned humanoids with reddish skin who were Atilesceon’s disciples. Several escaped further up the tower and when the heroes pursued them they came face to face with Atilesceon himself.

Third Day, Third Wik, Æftera Līþa (Pasture Mōnaþ), 736th Year of the Crusade

When the confrontation started, some of their company were still on the floor below, funnelled in a single file by the trapdoor leading up. This caused some issues for Hejduk, Ser Fulton, and Gorden, who were all stuck behind brother Connal who was struck by sheer terror and frozen in the doorway at the sight of Atilesceon. When Luca tried to magically command Connal to move. He did, but not in the direction that Luca had intended. He fought his way down the stairs, through his companions, causing a lot of confusion and chaos; something which Atilesceon made use of when he invoked a horrible, toxic cloud on that floor, which took the four companions trapped there out of the fight.

As James and Astrid quickly engaged Atilesceon in combat, it appeared that any damage he took from their attacks was magically transferred to his disciples, killing them one by one. After the fight was over, it was revealed that each one of them was wearing a curious trinket on the back of their necks, shaped like a scarab, made from a Lyrium crystal with brass and copper finishing.

At regular times, Atilesceon’s tower seemed to act in his defence. Occasionally, an infernal tether anchored to one of Atilesceon’s enemies and transferring some of the damage he was taking into the victim. At other times, the tower conjured up the spirits of the doomed crusaders, and sent them forth to attack Atilesceon’s enemies.

Sadwick kept popping in and out of sight, harassing Emma in battle, but not really moving the needle much. After getting wounded, he quickly turned invisible and departed the scene of the fight.

Atilesceon himself managed to throw high level magic around, noxious clouds, bolts of fire, cones of freezing cold, and turned Astrid into solid gold. All the while he was trying to entice the heroes to tell him what it was that they wanted, that he could get them anything they wanted. His honeyed words had no effect on our heroes; they were determined to defeat the artificer.

And so they did. Eventually they managed to slay the fallen Senhadrim. Once Ser Quentin plunged his lance into Atilesceon’s body, the glamour that he had cast on himself fell away, and he returned to the pallid-skinned, balding man that the heroes had seen on the painting hanging over the fireplace the first time they entered the tower.

Before Atilesceon had taken his final breath, the spirits of the doomed crusaders rose up one final time, plunging themselves through the dying mage, whisking him through the open doors onto the balcony and over the railing, being tossed through the air like a bone in a kennel before plunging into the cold waters of the lake.