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.
(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.