Tag: Crimson Tower

A Simple Lock of Hair

Previously, the adventurers arrived in Pinefall and made their way around the area, meeting various people. They found that Lord Destan had arrived in the village of Bristlecone and had been a guest at a prominent farm until going on an expedition with his guards, the local dog breeder and a tracker from the neighbouring community of Hunter’s Hollar. Rides later three survivors of the expedition were found outside of Bristlecone. It was Destan’s guard Jenna, who died soon after, the dog breeder, who had lost his mind, and the tracker who was unconscious and taken to the witch for healing. The witch was unwilling to give the adventurers access to the tracker in her care until James parted with a lock of his hair, which he refused. A trip to Hunter’s Hollar revealed that Destan had come to them for aid in finding the Crimson Tower, but all of them refused. They could not explain who the tracker was in the care of the witch further deepening the mystery.

Tenth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

The adventurers found themselves at the abandoned village once again after having explored the shores of Lake Llygad in search for any sign that Lord Destan and his expedition may have left behind. Having found not a trace, and having been spotted by the szygani, the group decided that some of them would approach the travellers. Emma, Emrys and Luca decided to head towards the caravans, while James and Astrid sat down between the wild sorghum to have themselves an adult beverage.

The broad-shouldered, mustachioed szygan that the adventurers had heard playing the violin upon arrival introduced himself as Tibor. He seemed friendly but a little bit apprehensive of the adventurers, but he introduced his wife Selina and his children, Dimmi and Danika. Selina offered the adventurers some small bites of sausage, bread, butter and salt while Tibor offered small glasses of plum liquor.

The others szygani were Hejduk, who was explained to be the group’s “guide” and interpreter of the signs of Maškar, and Mikula and her three daughters Mira, Kezia and Lavinia.

While the conversation turned more amicable between the three adventurers and the szygani, Tibor asked whether or not the James and Astrid would be interested in coming to join everyone. When they arrived, drinks and food were offered, and James was very keen on getting his hands on some of the plum brandy. He found out that the szygani did not create the drink themselves, but had bartered for it to the south, before coming to Pinefall. Their supply was not endless, but James managed to get his hands on eight bottles of the liquor, paying a hefty sum of two crowns and five stags for them. The bottles disappeared into his bag with ease, one by one.

Tibor explained that they had arrived in Pinefall not so long ago, following Hejduk’s interpretation of the signs that Maškar was giving him. He told about the tension between the szygani and the villagers of Bristlecone and about how Drummond came to that tension and explain a few things.

When Luca went to have a conversation with the mysterious, pony-tailed Hejduk, who had been observing Tibor talk to the adventurers, Emrys decided to start playing his lute. He played a cheerful, upbeat tune that Tibor could easily follow with his violin. Together they played and Mikula sent her daughters to dance around the bonfire. James noticed that Mikula’s daughters were probably well-versed in the art of distracting people with their dance, especially men with a fat purse.

Hejduk turned out to be as wary and apprehensive as Tibor initially was, but never eased up. Luca and he spoke about esoteric matters including Maškar, magic, the Circle of Mages and about Luca’s staff. Hejduk explained that he was not formally trained and that he had picked up some tricks along his travels, mostly from other szygani.

When the sun was going down the adventurers headed back to Bristlecone, just in time for them to catch Harm the shepherd, the vulgar and impulsive Volker and Gillian, one of the spinsters with a joy for drink. James ingratiated himself with the Rudwick hands using the newly acquired plum brandy and as time wore on one by one people turned in for the night.

The adventurers found their cottages hot and humid and cleverly made use of their ability to chill water and objects in order to cool themselves down in order to go to sleep.

First Day, Second Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

The following day Luca woke up in the middle of the night from the terrible warmth and humidity in the cabin. The magical means by which the adventurers had cooled the cabin had long since worn off, turning the cabin into a steam room as hot as the Sacred Baths of Sedna in Kingsport. Emrys and James were still vast asleep. He felt the urge to go outside and there he was confronted by his master.

Standing in the middle of the guest cabins, impressively tall with that strange, wasp-like waist, he foretold that Luca would be making an important journey and that on that journey he would have a chance to find important books. He would have to find information on the whereabouts of Tharizdun the Mad God. This would be the way in which Luca could repay his master for all the power his master had bestowed on him. He would also be gifted a boon; upon completion, Luca would be allowed to ask one question which his master would answer honestly.

Before that, however, Luca would have to help “another who serves” who was close by. Luca would have to find a way for “the other who serves” to go along with Luca in order to complete a very important task. Luca thought of Hejduk the szygan. With that understanding, his master bent down on those powerful legs and jumped up into the air like an arrow from a bow, disappearing in a streak in the clouds high above. Luca went back to the cabin to ponder the interaction.

James woke up with a terrible itch on the strange mark he had on the inside of the right hand. He had incurred the mark on that strange night he struggles to remember, before being found in the catacombs underneath Lynnecombe. He remembered flashes of being in the Sheridan library, riffling through their book collection when something happened in a hot flash of light, leaving him with that strange burn mark on his hand. It was that burn mark that Ser Benten mentioned when he urged James to go and find his companions and set off to return Lord Destan, ” since it is his mark you bear, after all.”

It was before dawn that everyone awoke to set out before the first rays of sunlight would crest the hills in the east, hoping to discover some clue about the poem that they recovered from the Bournemouth academy library. The adventurers had considered that the poem was a riddle to find and gain entrance to the Crimson Tower, but so far they had little to corroborate this theory. The Night of Violet Eyes was drawing closer and perhaps they might catch a glimpse of the tower.

As the adventurers started on their walk towards the lake they followed Harm the shepherd and his flock and sheep along the road, across the bridge and toward the lake. He expertly guided the flock with the help of two expertly trained dogs, likely from Robart’s kennel, through an series of intricate whistles and noises.

The conversation came around to the poem they had found in Bournemouth and in particular to the line “The white eye is to be explored.” The adventurers were unsure what this “white eye” was referring to, and they assumed that it was likely the lake.

Having found no traces of the crimson tower as the sun rose above the hills in the east the adventurers returned back to Rudwick’s farm where they enjoyed a nice breakfast. During that time they decided upon a plan to go and talk to Gregory, a local bee farmer, and Drummond, an armsman who retired to Bristlecone after serving in the Order of the Gryphon.

Gregory and Elora turned out to be a delightful older couple living in Bristlecone in a large cabin. They found Gregory in his garden tending to one of the several beehives while Elora was on the other side of the cabin tending to a vegetable garden. The adventurers sat down with them in the shade of a large tree in their garden and enjoyed some of the mead that the couple created from all the honey they farmed from the hives.

The conversation was pleasant but revealed little interesting information. The adventurers found out that the abandoned village had been abandoned for several generations, and they found out that “the white eye” referred to Lake Llygad, which used to be called Llyn Gwenllygad, which translated to “Lake of the White Eye” in an archaic dialect of the elven language spoken in the area long ago.

While the conversation with the old couple was winding down the adventurers noticed Isobel coming up the road, riding a large, black hog, making for an outrageous sight. She stopped in front of Gregory’s garden and asked to speak to James. She reiterated her offer to allow the adventurers access to the tracker in her care. Her price was unchanged; a lock of James’ hair. She did, however, up her ante, saying that she would reveal more about the curious mark on the palm of James’ right hand. James did not agree to the deal and with a smirk Isobel once again mounted her black hog and calmly rode it away.

After that strange encounter, the adventurers said their goodbyes to Gregory and Elora and went to visit Drummond. They found the barrel-chested man in front of his cabin. Their conversation ranged from the recently arrived szygani to the mobilisation of the Bristlecone villagers against the possible threats that the adventurers had seen on their way over from Allenham.

Most importantly, they spoke about Lord Destan and his expedition, particularly about the three who returned. Drummond explained that it was Vulgar Volker who found the Sheridan guard Jenna, Robart and the tracker just north of the bridge on the other side of the river. Drummond was one of the first people to be brought to the scene to help out. Jenna was alive then but had an awful gash in her side and she succumbed to her wounds near the bridge. Robart was carrying the tracker and was raving like a lunatic before his mind collapsed when they reached the bridge.

After the conversation with the retired armsman, the adventurers headed back to the abandoned village. They had previously spotted some abandoned items and the szygani had told them that quite a few interesting things were still around, so they decided to take a look and see if they could find out a reason why the village was abandoned all that time ago.

Rummaging through the village, they ended up finding a chest full of well-preserved linen fabrics hidden away underneath a thick copse of ivy, a dried leather pouch hidden behind a loose stone of a chimney holding eight heavily oxidised copper coins, two worn silver coins and a well-preserved gold crown with the face of King Philip the Tenacious on it. King Philip famously survived an assassination attempt during the Beauclair occupation on the night of Midinváerne in 1068 at Gryphon’s Roost, the nearby home of the Order of the Gryphon.

The real prize find was a scroll case with a collection of papers, together constituting a journal of sorts.The legible papers read the following:

Third Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1187

As predicted, tonight is the Night of the Three Eyes. Last year the Night of the Three Eyes was during the second ride of Winter Deep and therefore less terrifying. It’s the long summer nights that make the night worse on the shores of Llyn Gwenllygad. The year before all three eyes stayed closed. And the year before that it was two days before Highharvestide. Soren has said that if the cavalcade came once more from the Roost we will leave Pinefall for good.

Seventh Day, Second Ride, Summer End, 1187

Tomorrow we are leaving the only home we have ever known. Soren has promised that Fairfields might be far, but that there will be work, there will be people, and we won’t have to relive the slaughter or get woken up by the screams any longer. Soren can work the fields, and I can work the quill.

Ves and Steffen will stay. They believe folk like us won’t survive without the protection of Lady Llyn. Soren says that if the lady cared for us Ves would still have her own hair colour, and would still be able to talk.

I wonder who will live in our hut.

Welcome to Pinefall

Previously, the adventurers spent several days in the wilderness between Allenham and Pinefall, encountering a wounded knight of the Order of the Lance, battling a hill giant and his two dire wolves, and watching a curious bear snack on very hallucinogenic mushrooms. Eventually, the adventurers arrived in Pinefall.

Tenth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

An hour or two after the adventurers continued their journey towards Pinefall they crested the final hill which lead down into the Pinefall valley. At the centre of the valley they saw Lake Llygad, glistening in the morning sun. The noticed several gentle plumes of smoke coming from beneath the trees at the southern shore of the lake and confirmed, with the map that Falka had found for them at the Bournemouth Academy, that these must be coming from Bristlecone village.

As they walked westwards down a path that seemed more and more trodden, heading towards the eastern part of the lake, the suddenly heard a melancholic tune being played on a violin. The woods opened up to the north of the path to reveal a long abandoned village, with cabins and huts whose thatched roofs had collapsed and rotten away, with warped support beams and crumbling dry brick chimneys. Parts of the village had been reclaimed by the woods, with small trees growing through the huts and Lyrian ivy overgrowing much of the gardens and fences. The violin tune seemed to come from the far side of the village, near some fields between the houses and the lakes.

In between the abandoned fields, where wild sorghum grew, hemmed in by weeds covered brick fencing, a group of szygani had parked their colourful caravans in a circle around a bonfire, its pit created by the loose bricks from the crumbling chimneys of the abandoned village.

When the adventurers revealed themselves the szygani stopped what they were doing and brought their children inside. They did not approach, weary of the strangers appearing near their camp. The adventurers recalled their last encounter with the travellers at the Inn at the Crossroads and their pledge not to be taken in by them again, so they decided to leave the abandoned village, leave the szygani, and not engage with them. Emrys, ever the personable guy, waved a friendly hello, which was met by a timid wave from the man playing the violin.

The adventurers followed the road which headed south, around the lake, before curving westward once again along the southern shore of the lake. The passed by a small junction of a trail leading off into the woods. Their map revealed that the trail would lead to a pond a hut belonging to a witch. The remained on the path and followed along a bog between them and the lake. It was at this point that it was noticed that one of the szygani was following the group at a distance. James decided to fall back and out of sight, and waited patiently for the szygani to pass him by.

He noticed that the szygani was a lanky man with a black pony tail, carrying a dagger on one hip, and a curious satchel with macabre trinkets on his other hip. He had not noticed James, who couldn’t resist giving the man a fright as he passed him by casually. The szygani, obviously startled, cast a quick warding spell in reaction to James popping up along side him, and promptly apologised and headed back to his camp.

The sounds of civilisation came closer and closer. They spotted more and more houses through the trees, cabins and huts with neat, thatched roofs and vegetable gardens around them. Squealing pigs, honking geese and bleating sheep could be heard, as well as the rhythmic pounding of a hammer on an anvil. A small herd of sheep was being shepherded along the road by a man making whistling sounds to an expertly trained sheepdog, corralling the animals along.

One of the first houses the group passed was a large cabin with a fenced off field at the side and rear of it where a large group of barking dogs. They were in excellent shape and obviously well tended to. The pack consisted of a mixture of two types; sleek and dark hunting dogs, and shaggy sheepdogs.

An older lady with a neatly tied bun and tidy clothing was standing off to one side with one of the dogs, running the dog through training drills. When she noticed the adventurers she came over to the fence, the dog obediently glued to her left side. She introduced herself as Coranthe, one of the elders of the village. She could proudly confirm that Lord Destan had arrived in Pinefall and had met with almost every villager.  He claimed the purpose of his visit was to assess the estate for his families holdings. He had been staying at the Rudwick Barton, to the south of the village and had gone on an expedition with her son Robart.

She could also tell that the szygani had only recently arrived in Pinefall and had taken up residence in the field just outside of the abandoned village. They had flouted the local customs of not bathing, swimming, sailing, fishing or taking water from the lake and it had come to blows with certain villagers until Drummond, an old retired armsman in the Order of the Gryphon had talked to them and reestablished the peace. The lake was the home of a benevolent spirit called Lady Llyn, who was not to be crossed. Coranthe described her as a woman with a blue robe, wearing golden bracelets.

It was almost a month later when Robart, a guard Jenna and a tracker had been found outside of town on the opposite side of the river. Robart had lost his mind, Jenna had succumbed to her wounds, and the tracker was unconscious and had yet to wake up. Jenna had been buried, Robart had been brought home, and the tracker had been brought to Isobel the witch. It was clear that Coranthe despised the witch.

Lord Destan and his other two guards were still missing and Coranthe feared for the worst. Her son, Robart, was being tended to by their family, but he had shown no signs of improvement. James convinced Coranthe to allow Emma to have a look at him, explaining that she was a priestess with miraculous healing abilities. Coranthe seemed overjoyed at the prospect to have a priestess of Sedna tend to her son, and immediately went inside the house to open the door for the adventurers. Astrid decided to stay outside with Theo.

Inside, Coranthe introduced the adventurers to Ila, Robart’s young wife, and their three children, Loke, Millie and Penny who was still an infant. Luca and Emma were brought into a separate room where Robart, a strong looking man, was sitting on a bed in what smelled like his own urine. His stare was vacant and he didn’t respond to anything, but would allow people to move him and shift him, and he would occasionally move and shift of his own accord. Sometimes he would make a strange moaning sound. Luca, using Blackstar’s ability to detect souls for it to consume, found that Robart was an empty vessel, devoid of a soul. The staff immediately lost interest in the man.

When Luca shared his findings with Emma, after sending Ila away to get them water so that they may clean up Robart, Emma feigned a ritual to make the family feel better, but she knew she couldn’t be of help to the poor man. Upon departure from the hut, Ila said she would talk to Lem Rudwick as well as old Gregory who was a retired man who spent his time operating a honey farm and making mead. They might have a place for the adventurers to stay.

The adventurers decided to first visit the Rudwick Barton and so headed further into town, but not before being accosted by Millie, who was adamant that the adventurers should have a group name. The adventurers deferred to her judgement, and she promised she would think about a suitable name.

The people they met seemed friendly and they quickly came upon a path heading south. As they went south the noticed that grazing pastures were on either side of the road, filled with sheep, goats and other animals. Thick tufts of white wool were floating on the breeze as they came closer to a large farm consisting of several buildings. In front of the main building sat four ladies behind spinning wheels, turning stuffed bags of wool into carefully spun threads.

The man that came to introduce himself was Lem Rudwick, and he welcomed the adventurers to his farm. He was quick to introduce his wife Martha, who was one of the spinners and introduce the rest of his family; his second son Cas and wife Ann, as well as the widow of his first son Mack, who was killed by a skirmish with orcs several years previous. His wife had no family left, so they adopted her. Her name was Josey.

Lem offered the adventurers lodgings behind the main building; small cabins that were inhabited by the help that he employed on his farm. He was also persuaded to show the adventurers the guest house where Lord Destan had stayed. This was a much larger cabin further away from the smell of the barns. Inside, they found clothing, some mundane items, but also several crystal vials with water in them as well as ink, parchment, quills, a simple map of Pinefall including some sophisticated cartography tools, a very expensive spy glass, as well as a severed, petrified hand with stubs of candles set on the tips of each finger. Luca revealed that the hand was faintly magical, imbued with necromantic and divination magics.

When the crystal vials of water were revealed, Lem seemed shocked and displeased. When asked about his reaction, he was fearful that the water had been retrieved from the lake and he was adamant that he wanted to return the water before Lady Llyn’s anger would fall over his household. He, like Coranthe, believed that Lady Llyn was a very real spirit, but he claimed he had never seen her himself, but knew of people who had. When the adventurers concluded that the vials were likely containing water they handed them over to Lem so he could dispose of them in accordance to his beliefs.

In the meantime, James searched for hiding places and found that behind the bed, on a small nail, hung a delicate silver necklace with a sapphire pendant shaped in a figure eight. The adventurers concluded that this pendant was wholly consistent with the symbols of masks they had seen on the Sheridan estate.

Lem locked the guest house back up and escorted the adventurers to the cabins they had been assigned, handing them two keys. The cabin that was assigned to Astrid and Emma revealed some belongings from the Sheridan guard, Jenna. They found a leather string with an amethyst pendant, similarly shaped in a figure eight.

The adventurers decided to take some time to rest up, having been on their feet for well over three days. During that time Josey came to bring them some supper and said not to hesitate if they needed anything. Emma took her time to reflect on her relationship with the enigmatic Muirgheal. A sense of foreboding had never quite lifted ever since she bonded with the weapon, and she felt it was time to break that bond.

Once the adventurers were rested they decided to pay the witch a visit. When they arrived at the hut, they saw that three villagers had come to the witch’s cabin to ask her for her help with a dying cow. Isobel, an alluring woman in her middle ages with blond grey hair, a loose dress and a wide-brimmed straw hat, her neck decorated with several necklaces, reluctantly promised them some herbs which needed to be boiled with water from the river at midnight and given to the cow, but only after the stables had been thoroughly cleaned.

After the frightened villagers had left, Isobel turned to ask what the adventurers were seeking. They wanted to know more about the man that was in her care and what his condition was. She revealed that he was unconscious and had not been awake. She could nudge him to accept some food and water, but having been in this state for a month, she was fearful that he was not long for this world. When the adventurers asked her more questions, she refused without being properly compensated. James asked her what kind of compensation she would require, and she said she would want a lock of his hair.

Understandably surprised and suspicious of her demand, James refused and in return she refused them access to the tracker or to answer any more questions. James was not to be convince to part with a lock of his black hair and so the adventurers departed without much more knowledge than what they arrived with. Luca stayed back for a moment to see if he could persuade the witch, but she was not open to any counter offer.

It was decided to make the trek across the river towards Hunter’s Hollar, a small settlement in the woods to the west. So once again the adventurers made their way through the village and made their way across the bridge meeting some hunters on their way home to Bristlecone with their bounty for that day; a beautiful deer.

After more than an hour of walking along a small path through ever denser woods, the adventurers arrived at a group of huts in the middle of the woods. A collection of very diverse people were going about their business. Some were butchering a deer, another was working some leather, while others were tending to a communal pen of boar. They saw an elf, a dwarf, a halfling and several humans.

A man with a unusually delicate moustache and pointed goatee came walking up to them and introduced himself as Frederick. He carried himself with sophistication and his accent betrayed his Daerlan origin. When the adventurers made clear they were after information about Lord Destan he brought them to the two hunters who had refused Lord Destan’s service; Bogdan and Arnout.

Bogdan proved to be a Fulham hulk with a bald head and a brutish cauliflower ear on one side of his head. Arnout was a dark hair man, tall and slender, who mostly kept silent and let Bogdan do the talking. Bogdan explained that they had spoken to Lord Destan and that he wanted them to accompany him on his search for the Crimson Tower, something that neither man was interested in participating in. They had heard the wails and screeches on warm summer nights and didn’t think anything good would come from looking for the tower.

When asked about Lady Llyn, the spirit of the lake, Bogdan admitted that he had seen something that looked like the descriptions that others had given, but that he didn’t believe that the spirit was that of a woman. He believed that it looked more like that of a large, cresting fish.

When the matter of the injured tracker in the care of the witch came up, none of the people the adventurers spoke to at Hunter’s Hollar could confirm that they knew who he was. They claimed that whoever he was, it wasn’t one of theirs, since Lord Destan had left with Robart and his guards without their aid.

Deflated by the dead ends they had encountered they started back for Bristlecone village and talked about how to proceed next. The matter of the lock of hair demanded by the witch came up once more, and in a bout of uncharacteristic frustration, Emma rebuked James for being willing to pay Isobel’s price, claiming it was no more than a way for her to intimidate the group.

In turn, James, in an uncharacteristic bout of honesty admitted that he had grown up in a place where trust is hard to come by and that despite having been dependent on one another in some precarious situations since meeting, he still didn’t fully trust his companions, let alone a wood witch whom he had met only that day.

Before crossing the bridge across the river into Bristlecone, the adventurers decided they would spend the last remaining hours walking all around the lake to see if they were able to spot the remnants of an encampment left behind by Lord Destan and his companions. After having crossed the incoming river from the north using a ritual that Emma had prepared which allowed them to miraculously walk across water as if it was a solid surface, they once again arrived back at the abandoned village, in sight of the szygani camp.

It was late in the day, and unfortunately, the adventurers had learned much less about the fate of Lord Destan than they had hoped to have learned.

Through the Silverpine Hills

Previously, the adventurers travelled from Allenham, through the Riverlands, on their way to Pinefall. The came across a village where they got directions, a hamlet which had been attacked by monsters, a strange murder of crows, a stag with a demonic looking creature having burst out from within in. Some of these encounters were strange, but none more so than meeting a grievously wounded knight, alone in the wilderness but for his wounded horse, who gave a confusing recount of who he was and why he was so wounded, before ageing rapidly and ultimately perishing.

Eighth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

While Astrid started gathering enough stones to create a proper burial mound for Ser Florianus’ remains, Emma asked Emrys to mend his shield and gorget. Emma took the shield with her, thinking it might be of use later on, while the gorget was used as a grave marker once Astrid was done putting Florianus to rest. James took a moment to go through the rest of the equipment that Ser Florianus had on him when he died, hoping to find something of use, but unfortunately the only things among his belongings were mundane items and trinkets.

The adventurers had found a ring of crystals around a small crater of molten slag from which Ser Florianus had supposedly emerged. Luca tried to harvest some of the crystals from the slag, but found it very difficult to extract one without damaging them. He managed to retrieve a small purple crystal but chipped it while doing so. He tried to use it for a very simple illusion spell, but it didn’t seem to work like the orange crystals from the catacombs below Lynnecombe did. James, much more nimble of fingers managed to extract seven small crystals of different colours from the slag.

The adventurers travelled onwards and a conversation started about the strange encounter they had with Ser Florianus. James feared that Bristlecone might already be affected by what is happening there where Floranius claimed he came from. Especially his mentioning of Ser Benten confused them, and they wondered aloud whether it’s possible that the Sheridans have been around since the Age of Fear. They realised they only had a few more days before the Darkmoon would stand in high sanction, and Luca realised that it would be the Night of Violet Eyes, a rare night where both the Bloodmoon and the Darkmoon would stand in high sanction.

After finding a small stream with mountain fresh water, the adventurers set up camp and bedded down for the night, deciding not to light a fire because the light would travel much further in these woods than it did in the woods of the Riverlands.

Ninth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

During the night, James found that he couldn’t keep his eyes open during his guard shift with Astrid. The Silverpine hills were putting a heavy strain on his calves, and the higher exposure to the sun meant he and the rest had caught a bit of a sunburn, further taxing his system. Eventually, Astrid told him to rest and she would finish the rest of the shift on her own, an offer he gladly accepted.

The night went by without any incidents even though packs of wolves could be heard howling in the distance. Luca wondered whether Astrid’s golden yellow eyes were a sign that she might have an affinity with wolves, who he believed shared that trait. The following morning Luca observed that Astrid seemed more fascinated by the eagles and birds of prey flying high above the hills than she was with any wolves.

Emma implored Sedna to send a message of warning down the rivers, streams, brooks and rivulets, to Tom of Shady Brook, telling him about the fate that befell the people at the hamlet of Calvin’s farm. He responded that he appreciated the warning and that he would remain at Shady Brook but prepare for any attack. His response was swift and confident, further confirming the suspicion that Tom was more than a simple farmer.

Several hours after continuing their trek through the valleys of the southern Silverpines, the adventurers encountered a narrow valley exit, flanked on either side by high, steep walls. It was guarded by a towering hill giant and his two dire wolves. The hill giant was eating part of a large elk bull and entertaining himself throwing scraps to the dire wolves and watching them fight over it. He and his two animals were so preoccupied with this that they failed to notice the adventurers who therefore had ample time to prepare a solution for the conundrum the dangerous valley gate keeper was forming.

Since the adventurers had spotted a debris of bones, including humanoid bones, around the hill giant, they concluded that reasoning or bargaining with the brute was unlikely to yield any success, and thus it was decided to confront him en force, using the dreadful flute, newly acquired from Liliana’s lair, as an instrument to sow chaos among their foe. Emrys used his sorcery to shrink one of the two dire wolves down to the size of a regular wolf, and James played the dreadful flute, while Astrid and Emma engaged in melee and Luca sent bolt after angry bolt of eldritch energy into action.

They dispatched with the giant and his wolves in record time and took a short break to recover from the adrenaline and search through the giant’s belongings. James found some beautifully crafted, studded leather vambraces, while Astrid decided not to let the elk meat go to waste.

After resting up the adventurers continued on until the sun began to sink lower on the western horizon. The picked a high spot to take another look at their progress and orient themselves against the landmarks which were provided to them. They were likely only a couple of hours away from Bristlecone, but decided not to push it and make up camp.

While doing so, the adventurers noticed a large, grizzly bear rutting around the base of a nearby tree. It was far enough away for the adventurers not to feel immediately threatened, but too far away to make out what the bear was doing. They did notice that the bear had an odd mark on its flank, that of a circle with a crescent moon over it.

When the bear eventually departed some of the adventurers went to investigate the tree that the bear was rutting around and found a large growth of mushrooms there, many of them munched on by the bear. Luca, who had experience with mushrooms, knew them as ghost mushrooms and understood them to be toxic and a strong hallucinogenic. Emma could add that they were often used by Kaedwyni druids for rituals of communion. James, Luca and Emma decided to harvest some of the mushrooms and take them along with them.

That night the watch was arranged in a different way than normally. Luca and Emma would take the first watch, James and Emrys would share the second watch, while Astrid would take the third watch by herself.

Tenth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

During the first watch, Emma decides to take some of the mushrooms while Luca observes to make sure that she is alright. Soon after chewing down the earthy and acrid fungus she started to notice that the sparks and embers from the campfire started to leave wonderfully coloured trails and traces and that everything around her started to glow with a radiant, multi-coloured light. She tried to step out of her own body and was surprised that she could look down at herself, Luca and the rest of the camp.

She wandered away from the camp, towards where the bear had been eating the mushrooms, delighted at how colourful everything looked, despite the darkness. She returned to the spot and decided to see whether she could follow the tracks the bear may have left, finding that the tracks looked like small pools of radiant water. She followed them all the way to a small clearing on the side of a hill. On the opposite end of the clearing that was a small cave entrance that the tracks lead towards and she decided to enter.

As Emma got closer to the cave’s entrance, it grew larger and larger in size, until it was tower over her higher than the giant had been. She continued into the cavernous depths of the entrance and felt she was stepping onto water. Darkness was all around her, except for the entrance behind her which looked once again small and very far away. She bent down and dipped her fingers in the water and put them to her mouth, tasting the salty flavour of the sea.

For a moment she turned back and decided to head out of the cave and back to camp, until she started hearing a clear, female voice sing that same song that she had heard Muirgheal sing, the sea shanty about Admiral Karadin and his treacherous daughter Rhosyn. Finding her bravery she turned back around and ventured deeper into the cave until she finally saw a huge ship. A galleon. A warship. It’s sails were ragged and it ropes were ragged. Approaching it she found a rope ladder hanging along its side, which she began to climb. All the while she heard the song, Daughter of the Sea, being sung.

On deck Emma found the corpses of sailors who had died during a violent battle. She oriented herself and decided to head up to the rear deck, ascending a set of stairs. There she found a figure standing at the rudder, wearing a bright, blue cloak. All the while singing the last verses of the song. Emma approached and called out, “Rhosyn?” but was met with silence.

As she raised her arm to remove the blue hood from the person standing at the rudder, Emma heard a verse she had not heard before, more troublesome and haunting than the verses before;

I heard, I heard, across a moonlit sea,
The old voice warning me,
“Beware, beware the Daughter of the Sea”,
“Beware, beware…”
…of me.

Emma removed the hood to reveal a beautiful woman with blond hair and a fair face. When the woman looked up and Emma’s eyes met hers the woman’s hand shot out and grabbed Emma by the throat so fast that Emma’s consciousness was brought all the way back to her body sitting across the campfire from Luca.

Luca and Emma spoke about what Emma had seen and what it might have meant. The rest of the night went by without incident, but the next morning Emma convinced everyone to spend a moment trying to find the clearing in the woods with the cave. They managed to find it, only to find that the cave was a small burrow to a very angry wolverine and not the cavernous hiding place of admiral Karadin’s flagship.

The journey continued, and by mid-morning, the adventurers found a the beginnings of a trail which quickly lead to spotting the first plumes of hearth fires in the distance. It seems their wilderness journey was coming to an end, and that Bristlecone might finally be in sight.

Travel to Pinefall

Previously, the adventurers settled the conflict between the Allenham townsfolk and were asked by the magistrate to take care of the Procyon threat that was still lingering in the dense forests around town. They found and engaged a large group of Procyon scouts, lead by mage. The fight was stiff, but the Procyon eventually retreated. The adventurers pursued the retreating elves into the ruins, hoping to strike a crushing blow. Unfortunately, they were lured into an ambush and it was their time to retreat. The elves did not pursue. Instead, when the adventurers returned to Allenham, they found that the Procyon had attacked the Allenhouse, killed the guards and murdered the magistrate.

Sixth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

Early in the morning, Emrys woke up on a bench in a common room of the Allenhouse with a folded piece of parchment on his chest. He had fallen asleep the previous night trying to compose a sad melody regarding the events of the past few days. The parchment was a letter, which read as follows:

Dear Cendelius,

While observing the Allenham townsfolk as they go about plundering and devouring the forest, I have noticed a human woman who stands out to me. She is the daughter of a notable and has been touched by… something. It is neither fey nor shadow, neither radiant nor dark. She is under the influence of someone, or something. I suspect that the disappearance of Lady Sehanine is weakening the bond between the woman and whatever it is that’s manipulating her. The evening after tomorrow, when Sehanine is fully obscured, is when the bond, and whatever is causing it, is at its weakest. I know it is not in your nature to help out the humans, but we must act. That is why I send this scout, Kalindras Duskstrider, to bring you this message.

Forever in your debt,

Valadar Amberwind

The morning was used to hold the ceremony for the late magistrate Strickland’s funeral, lead by Emma and attended by a few townsfolk. It was a modest affair, on the grounds behind the Allenhouse.

Soon after, James and Luca returned, looking tired and dishevelled, recounting a curious tale of their encounter with what Luca thought was a Succubus; a malevolent fiend from another realm. The fiend had been influencing Martha Allen and was likely behind a lot of the trouble in the village.

It was time to move on and depart Allenham. But before their departure, the adventurers took a moment to freshen up, raid the Allenhouse larder, and Luca paid a visit to Falibor’s smithy and paid handsomely for a bag of iron filings he wanted to use in a ritual.

A search of the Allenhouse revealed a small lock box in Strickland’s office, which James opened with the set of curious tools, revealing some of Strickland’s personal correspondence with family, a pouch of coins, which James tossed to Luca who clumsily tried to catch it, and what looks to be a signet ring with the seal of House Strickland of Fairfields on it, a field with a rising sun.

The pouch contained eight platinum dragons, three gold crowns and twelve silver stags.

Luca used the last remaining pearl to divine the properties of the potion and the flute that he and James had found in Liliana’s cave. He crushed the pearl and mixed the powder with some wine and used the paste to create intricate arcane equations on a flat surface. Placing the items among the equations, he divined that the potion was meant to temporarily boost a person’s speed, while the flute had a much more sinister purpose; playing a melody was able to frighten all but the most strong-willed people to hear the tune.

The newly acquired donkey Theo was burdened with all of their belongings, their treasure chest, all of their food, several tents and bedrolls. The stubborn animal bore it all without complaint.

Without any ceremony, the adventurers departed and followed the path north, along the river. Because of limited fodder for Theo the donkey, they decided to keep their eyes out for grazing pastures to rest. The weather was warm, cloudy and oppressive, but it was only later in the day that thunderstorm rolled in, offering some refreshment with a cool drizzle of rain.

Eventually a grove was found near the end of the day, which allowed for Theo to graze and the rest to pitch a tent. The trees hard ranger marks to Sylvanus carved into them, signs that it was often used as a campsite. Never far away from small tributaries or brooks, Emma took it upon herself to try and fish using Muirgheal, which the trident obviously appreciated. Unfortunately, the river fish were too small and not easily caught, but eventually there was some fish to supplement their ration dinner.

A guard duty was set up. James and Astrid took the first guard. During the second guard, held by Emrys and Luca, Luca felt as if there were eyes upon him, though he could never find who or what was out there. Lastly, before dawn, Emma was awoken to hold the last watch, allowing her to commune with Sedna and get an early start of the day.

Seventh Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

The following morning the journey was continued until the little village of Shady Brook was found, a small settlement of farmers living off the land surrounded by woods. Old man Henderson, negotiated some trade with the adventurers; food in return the elven short sword that was recovered from the fight with the Procyon in the ruins near Allenham.

Another villager, Tom, could confirm that Lord Destan had come through Shady Brook on the first day of the second ride of Spring Blossom. He had been interested in the Aen Adhar, the local moon elves of the Riverlands, as well as the woodland spirits that the Riverlanders made strange, pagan offerings to in tribute.

Emrys shared that the moon elves of the Riverlands was the tribe that he belonged to and that they were inclusive of humans, but that his upbringing was mostly elven. And there were conversations about the last conjunction of planes and the curious spirits and creatures that stayed behind, possibly evolving into the woodland spirits that the  Riverlanders paid tribute to.

New directions were received to a small, nameless hamlet. A few hours north the path would end, and then the directions were a collection of landmarks that would lead to the hamlet, where a man named Calvin lived together with his and another family.

After saying their goodbyes the adventurers followed the instructions and went off the path, following landmark after landmark. The lack of a path meant that progress was slower, having to occasionally backtrack and redirect their journey. After crossing a stream, Emma and Emrys noticed the carcass of a dead stag in the underbrush. Upon closer inspection it seemed as if the body of a demon had burst from the inside of the body of the stag, limbs and claws sticking out from the stag’s body, as well as an overgrown, bat-like head bursting forth from its neck. It was a grizzly and unnerving sight.

The adventurers followed the tracks that the stag had left behind back to a strange ring of crystals surrounding a familiar crater of slag, indicating a portal site. Luca scraped some more Lyrium ore residue off the slag, like he had done at the portal in the catacombs underneath Lynnecombe.

The journey continued for another couple of hours until a good pasture was found, deep in the woods. Camp was set up and Theo was left to graze. Luca, who had continued to feel a sense of unease since the previous night, decided to create some rudimentary, pagan offering mounds around the campsite. The same guard was arranged as the previous night, but during the first watch, a large murder of crows was seen gathering in a tree close by. Crows, the adventures had learned in Shady Brook, was a sign of the attention or perhaps presence of one of the woodland spirits. Fortunately, the camp was set up in a place that didn’t seem to bother the woodland spirit, because the rest of watch went by without a problem.

Eighth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

The following morning the journey continued, making sure to ever keep the murder of crows, which seemed to be tracking the adventurers, at a safe distance. With a few more detours, tracking landmark after landmark, they reached the small hamlet of Calvin’s farmstead. Unfortunately, the two farmhouses were the witness of a vicious attack of monsters. Both houses were ransacked, the doors broken open and the inhabitants killed; a family of three, and a family of four.

Searching the houses some more food was recovered and Emrys found a journal, written by Calvin’s wife, who kept careful track of several mundane events. Luca had found simple warding sigils carved around the inside of the door and window frames, much akin to the decorations he had seen in the crag leading to Liliana’s cave. Further investigations revealed that whatever attacked these poor souls, there were several of them, though the adventurers were not able to divine kind of monster they were.

All the while, Astrid and Emma had found simple shovels and were digging the people a grave next to older graves nearby and they added a few more burials to a growing list of burials of late.

Finally, the adventurers departed the hamlet and made their way further north. Several hours later, they found the landscape changing; the trees changed from broadleaf to pine, and more and steeper hills started to dot the landscape. Slowly, they were leaving the Riverlands and crossing over into the Silverpine Hills. With the change in trees, so did the forest become less dense and more easily navigable, but the adventurers paid for that with the extra effort of climbing steeper hills.

Near the end of the afternoon, the adventurers noticed a man on a horse in the distance, who didn’t seem to respond to any hails. It soon became clear that both the horse and the rider were wearing barding. Leather for the horse, and a silver-gilded plate armour for the rider, denoting them as a knight of the Order of the Lance. When they came even closer, it became clear that the knight was badly wounded and almost unresponsive. Up until then the adventurers had been very cautious and Emrys had used his magic in preparation for potential battle.

When they finally caught up with the man, Emma used the healing powers granted to her from Sedna to help the young man. His helmet and pauldrons were dented, his gorget and shield were cracked, his lance was broken and there was an awful gash in the side of his breastplate. He had blond hair, matted to his face by dried blood and sweat. The horse was also wounded, but seemed like it would recover, given some care and attention.

Luca recognised the sigil on the knight’s shield, a lightning bolt hitting a tree, it was a historic sigil belonging to Ser Florianus, one of the knights who fought and fell at the Battle for the Crimson Tower, when the Knights of the Silver Crusade were betrayed and ambushed. When the knight had regained some lucidity, he was asked for his name, but his response sounded confused, claiming to be “Mark”, then changing his mind to “Florianus.”

The knight started to rapidly age, and within no time he had aged several decades. Emma comforted him, assuring him that this would be his final death. Right before he drew his last breath, when he had aged a hundred years since the adventurers first encountered him, he wanted them to pass on a message:

Tell the lord commander McAllister that it was an ambush. Tell Ser Benten, no the lord commander, that I failed the protect the mage, no defeat the mage!

Battling the Procyon

Previously, the adventurers managed to broker a deal between the different parties in Allenham which seemed to satisfy everyone’s needs. The remaining threat to newly brokered peace in the village was still threatened by the presence of the Procyon somewhere in the wilds around town. Magistrate Strickland struck a deal with the adventurers that they could resolve the Procyon presence in return for two sturdy mules or donkeys for them to use on their way to Pinefall. The adventurers returned to the elven ruins in the forest, convinced that they would be able to find tracks which would lead them to the Procyon hideout. After searching they found an entrance to a underground system underneath the ruins, from which a group of Procyon spilled forth to do battle with them.

Fifth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

Right after Luca had managed to penetrate the illusion which was cast over the statue of the elven lovers, a Procyon scout rose up from an entrance in the base of the statue which lead to the ruins below the garden. He had is bow drawn and loosed an arrow at Luca, who managed to duck out of the way. In the confusion, eight fleet-footed Procyon scouts emerged from the entrance, each of them carrying swords and bows. Quick to follow was a large, black feline, that came bounding out of the entrance, going straight for Luca. And last came another elf, this time clothed not in the supple leathers of the Procyon scouts, but in the loose flowing robes of an arcanist, carrying a wand made from twisted wood.

The feline pounced on Luca, taking him down, while everyone else was immediately under fire. James moved quickly from bush to bush, the thorns of the roses tearing at his clothing and skin, but always keeping hidden from sight. He was all over the garden striking suddenly when the opportunities presented themselves. Astrid raged as she tore into the nearest Procyon scouts with her grotesque sword and Emma unleashed a tidal wave of water like a hammer. Emrys used his illusions to duplicate himself causing confusion among his attackers while flinging broken shards of marble at them. At one point, Emma managed to lure one of the Procyon scouts close enough to the waterfall to shove them triumphantly over the edge.

The adventurers all found themselves out of position to support each other. Soon, Luca was down, James had drawn the attention from the arcanist, Emrys was drawing fire, Astrid was battling several scouts at once, and Emma was dealing with assailants of her own. Luckily, they had managed to strike enough of the scouts down and wounded many others so that they started a tactical retreat back towards the entrance at the base of statue. They grabbed as many of their fallen as they could and descended down into the ruins.

Emma took a moment to call upon Sedna’s divine grace to bring both Emrys and Luca back from the brink. Questions were raised about what to do next. Perhaps the adventurers thought they had the Procyon on the run, perhaps they felt threatened by leaving them down in the ruins, perhaps they felt that now was the best time to strike, and so they climbed down into the ruins. They used all caution as they found themselves descending down into part of an elven bath house, the interior matching the exterior with marble columns and rose bushes decorating them.

They found a doorway leading to a corridor which ultimately took a right turn leading down a flight of stairs. At the bottom of the stairs another short corridor which lead to another room, much like the one they had just departed, complete with a bath and all the trappings of a decadent bath house. They found signs of a camp, with hastily discarded bedrolls, trinkets, clothing, and the signs of an extinguished campfire.

Another corridor lead to another staircase, once again going down and taking a right turn. Another corridor at the bottom of the staircase lead to an almost identical room with a bath in it. Again there were signs of a camp. The same in the next room. The last room they found did not have the same signs of a camp, but was otherwise identical to the previous three. The only room that was unique was the top room, as it was more elaborately decorated with rose bushes, which was something the other rooms lacked.

The final corridor eventually lead to entrance to the base of the hill on the north-western side. Allenham lay about an hour to the south-east. The entrance to the tunnel was obscured by roots and vines coming off the side of the hill. When the adventurers emerged into the daylight, they were once again confronted by the Procyon, lay in wait in the treeline, ready for an ambush.

As the adventurers emerged they were beset upon by a sudden, magical blizzard, pelting them on all sides with cold, hard hailstones. Then came a hail of arrows from the scouts. Last came the devastating arrow from Cendelius’ own recurve bow, exploding in the middle of them, knocking out Emrys and Luca once again. They had been lured into overextending themselves in their pursuit of this group of guerrilla fighters and had paid the price for it. Astrid and Emma grabbed their fallen companions and the group retreated back into the safety of the ruins.

The group decided to rest in one of the bath chambers, setting up simply spells which would aid them in detecting if or when the Procyon would return to finish them off. But after hours of rest, the Procyon never came, and the group decided it was safe enough to return to the top of the hill, emerging from the entrance in the base of the statue to find that the remaining dead scout the Procyon had initially left behind had also been retrieved. What they did find, however, were some of the items of the scout which Emma had pushed over the edge of the waterfall. They decided to take their shortsword as proof of their battle.

Returning to Allenham they found the village eerily quiet. Syndarael’s cottage was abandoned, with the door left open. Other huts and cabins had closed and bolted their doors. Something was clearly amiss. When they came closer to the centre of the village they saw small plumes of smoke coming from the Allenhouse. Upon arrival they found the large building damaged by fire, the two guards slain, and the door open wide.

Inside they found magistrate Strickland slain at the hands of the Procyon, with Sylvael cradling his head in her lap while her mother was futilely trying to patch up the magistrate’s wounds. The only thing that Syldarael could say was that everything would become so much worse now.

The adventurers decided to try and take charge the situation. Some did it for their own benefit, some did it out of a sense of duty, but conversations were held with Falibor and Herman to rally together and lead the village until such a time that another magistrate would be sent from Kingsport. The latter also agreed to provide the adventurers with one of his donkeys in repayment for their efforts in dealing with the Procyon presence.

Emma took care of cleansing the body and preparing it for burial, together with Syldarael who explained that the farmers of Allenham paid homage to the Earthmother. They believed that they came from the earth, and would return to the earth in death. The bodies of the two guardsmen were retrieved by their families, who were going to put them to rest the following day in a small, private ceremony.

Luca tried to find out where the magistrate kept his rookery and was annoyed to find that such a small village like Allenham didn’t have a rookery of their own. No wonder Kedelon had to make the trip up and down river to Blackbridge so often. They only had a bird whenever Kingsport sent them a bird, which they would then promptly send back with a reply.

Emma provided a solution to this problem by using the divine grace of Sedna in order to send a message along the streams and rivers of the Lyrian countryside, all the way to the handsome folk hero and lieutenant of the palace crownsguard, William of Eastwarren.

Surprised by the usual message, William promised to relay the message to the steward of Kingsport. Or at least, that’s what Emma imagined he was trying to say in reply since the message got cut off prematurely.

That evening, Emrys and James patrolled the streets, making sure that the Procyon did not return to cause more trouble. The irony of two half-elves on patrol to keep the villagers of Allenham safe was not lost on anyone.