Tag: Crimson Tower

Council and Consequences

Previously, the adventurers tried to find the common ground between the conflicting parties in Allenham in the hopes of creating a foundation upon which peace could be brokered. They talked to magistrate Strickland, the healer Syldarael and the farmer Herman, who seemed to be at the epicentre of the racial tension in order to get a better sense of what could put this strife to rest.

The adventurers stumbled upon a mob of humans who were dragging a halfling family of three from their home and tried to put a stop to it. In the middle of James shepherding the halfings to safety while the rest was confronting the mob, a group of Procyon archers opened fire on the mob, killing many of them, before being driven off by the adventurers.

Magistrate Strickland was called to the scene. The bodies were collected and a meeting of notable figures in the conflict was arranged for later that day.

Fourth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

In the wake of the massacre, when everything had been arranged and the adventurers had some time before the council meeting, they decided to investigate the direction in which the Procyon archers had headed. They were able to pick up a trail and start following it. Emma noticed a piece of fletching made from a bright, red feather and made a not of it.

After close to an hour of wandering deeper and deeper into the woods surrounding Allenham, the adventurers stumbled upon a pond at the base of a hill, fed by a small waterfall coming from higher up on the steep hill. The pond had cool, fresh water with all manner of small fish and tadpoles swimming around in it.

Pieces of broken and cracked marble columns and archways were found nearby, indicating a winding path which lead up the hill. As the adventurers ascended higher up the path, the columns became more overgrown with vines of bindweed and beautiful thorny rose bushes.

The top of the hill opened up to a circle of thick oak trees surrounding a ring of marble pillars. These, in turn were the outer perimeter for a long forgotten garden which nature had long since reclaimed with wild roses. In the middle of the garden stood a fountain with a beautiful statue of an elven couple holding one another in a romantic embrace.

The adventurers started to quietly explore the garden, each of them looking out for different things. Emrys seemed lost in thought as he wandered the garden, while Emma was looking for the source of the waterfall and trying to figure out what used to feed the old, marble fountain. James found a very crude shortsword scattered among the briarthorns which was reminiscent of the weapons carried by the loathsome skaven.

Eventually, the adventurers discovered a hose of skaven bodies in a crevice behind the garden, beyond ring of columns and trees. Using some rope, Emma climbed down with James following her. They discovered that the bodies were riddled with deft cuts and arrows which carried the same red fletchings Emma had found near Allenham after the massacre. It was clear they were dispatched by the Procyon.

They searched the bodies and found some trinkets but otherwise nothing of value. One of the dead skaven seemed to be higher in rank, wearing the same thick leather armour which they had seen some of the task masters wear in the catacombs beneath Lynnecombe. James took a knife and cut a section of the leather and took it with him.

By the time they climbed back out of the crevice, the adventurers noticed that the sun was hanging low in the sky. They had no more time to search the shaded garden for they had a council to attend. The adventurers were convinced that this was a place that the Procyon frequented and that they simply hadn’t unearthed the secrets of the garden, and so Luca decided to leave a bit of parchment near the statue of the elven lovers inviting the Procyon to attend the council.

The return to Allenham from the garden was a lot quicker than the way over and by the time the adventurers got to the magistrate’s house most of the attendees had already gathered in a spacious room used for more official business. Strickland, Syldarael, Falibor and his son Balidor were already present, but Herman and Martha were not there yet, leaving everyone to wonder about their intentions. Sylvael dropped in late, and eventually the Allens did show up, together with another senior farmer.

Strickland took the reigns of the council and suggested that everyone should say their piece, state their intentions and desires, and come with any suggestions they deemed necessary in order for the violence and animosity to come to an end. He had good hope that common ground might be found.

Falibor started by saying that there was no dwarven word for forgiveness, just subtle variations on revenge, recompense and retribution. If he was not recompensed, he would depart Allenham and try to make his fortune on the Plains of Strife, or perhaps return to Ard Thoradun.

Syldarael spoke next and told everyone that in her capacity as a healer, she believed that there was a possibility to repair and heal the community. When she spoke about repair, she seemed to be subtly addressing Falibor, trying to sway him to remain in town. She said that she wanted to see the violence stop, and that she was willing to cancel the wedding if that’s what it took. Martha was visibly delighted by that prospect.

When Herman spoke, he aired his grievance about the unfair distribution of new farmland and that the land that had been allocated to the Stubbs family should rightly have gone to him, or at least a human family. The Stubbs family was the halfling family attacked by the mob earlier that day and had decided to depart Allenham after the violence.

There were several rounds of negotiations but it was eventually concluded that Herman would take control of the Stubbs farmland in return for him pay triple the normal taxes for the first two years, and double the normal taxes for the following three years after that. The money would go towards rebuilding the smithy, repairing the houses, and compensating families for their damages and losses.

The remainder of the time the Procyon activity was discussed. Strickland decided to send Kedelon back down the river to Blackbridge the following morning in order to appeal to captain Randall for some of his guards to be temporarily dispatched to Allenham until the tempers had died down. In the meantime he appealed to the adventurers to resolve the situation with the Procyon, making sure that they no longer saw Allenham as fertile soil for them to raise the crops of revolt. In return for their aid, beds and breakfasts were provided at the magistrate’s house, and two beasts of burden would be provided to aid the adventurers in their onward journey.

Before retiring for the evening, Luca found Emma in her room getting ready to get some much needed sleep. He wanted to give her a lyrium crystal and requested that she experiment with it, like he had. He was curious whether the crystal would work like a universal reagent, like it did for his magic, and whether it would boost the potency and the outcome of the divine magic she had at her command. She politely refused, thinking of the divine magic she wielded as a gift from her goddess, which was something she was unwilling to alter or meddle with.

Fifth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

The following morning breakfast was waiting for the adventurers when the woke up. The guards whom they had seen at the magistrate’s house spoke of a quiet evening with no more incidents of violence.

The adventurers decided to return to the garden in the forest to investigate further. They were convinced that there was some hidden passage. Emma had gotten the feeling that the hill upon which the garden stood was the site of some underground activity which had cracked and split the rock, causing the crevice in which they had found the skaven, and diverting the water from the spring from the fountain of the lovers, to the waterfall and the pond at the base of the hill. She felt that there was a way inside the hill and she wanted to make an effort to find it.

The walk to the garden was pleasant as the adventurers found comfort in the shade of the large, broadleaf trees of the woods. They found the garden as they had left it, with the exception that the parchment that Luca had left behind was nowhere to be found.

Emrys, again lost in reverie, was asked what he knew about the place, and he said that it was the remnant of a community of Aen Adhar, or moon elves, that lived in the area over three thousand years ago. He himself was of moon elf descent, and he knew the names of the lovers depicted by the statue; Mindaran Chillwind and Gwyndeith Starfall.

Emma investigated the fountain and found that the marble of the fountain’s basin was as worn by age and cracked by vines and bushes as the pillars around the garden. Luca, amazed that everything is broken except the statue, decides to attune himself to the subtleties of the magic around him and detects a faint aura of an illusion coming from the statue.

As he came to the realisation that what he was looking at could possibly not be the thing which was there, he saw the statue waver and blur, only to reveal an opening into the base of the fountain from which a Procyon commando emerged, training a drawn bow on Luca and loosening an arrow in his direction, narrowly missing his head!

A Time of Contempt

Previously, the adventurers learned about the history of the venomous dagger; a green dragon by the name of Kalauranthalasis was enslaved by a priest of the dark queen named Melchior who harvested its body to fashion the dagger and many like it to carry out assassinations of seemingly random people in name of the Takhisis. The adventurers also managed to catch a boat ride upriver with an elf named Kedelon, a friendly and simple fellow from Allenham, who was also travelling with Rickard and Willow. The journey to Allenham was quiet and pleasant, taking about a day and a half before arrive at a small pier just south of town.

After disembarking and saying goodbye to Rickard and Willow the adventurers walked towards Allenham with Kedelon. They came upon an old, gnarled hanging tree in which six non-human bodies were strung up and a message of racial bigotry against non-humans underlined the motive of the hanging. In town it appeared that tension between humans and non-humans were running high due to a capricious magistrate and a decade old feud involving Kedelon’s family and the Allen family, the influential founding family of the town.

Fourth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

The adventurers departed the magistrate’s building, leaving Strickland to stew in the mess that he had made. They were interested in getting the perspective of some of the other notables in town in order to get a complete picture of the situation. They decided to continue the ruse that Luca was a mage sent down as a royal envoy to investigate the Procyon activity in the area. Their first stop was Syndarael’s cottage, where they once again met up with Emrys, who was still sitting outside with Toruviel across his lap, enjoying the sunshine filtering through the leaves in the trees.

Everyone who had not been introduced got introduced to Syldarael’s family and her halfling friend Tiff, who was helping out and providing everyone with a nice cup of restorative herbal tea. In the meantime a conversation was had between Emrys, Luca and Syldarael. The rest remained outside so as not to crowd the little cottage too much.

It was revealed that Allenham was founded about one hundred and fifty years ago by the Allen family. Syldarael was part of a local elven community and the two communities were joined when a blight went through the area, leaving the elves unable to hunt or forage for food. The Allen family bartered food for labour and soon the elves and humans were living side by side.

It was also revealed that Allenham and its environs were part of the crownlands, owned by House Valois and governed by magistrates. Rickard and Willow lived close to Allenham but were from a neighbouring estate owned by House Hardwin of the Cloisterwoods. Emrys was familiar with the Cloisterwoods and House Hardwin, since they were both neighbours of House Blackwell of the Cloakwoods, with whom had had history.

Another thing the adventurers learned was that Strickland had only been magistrate for a few years. He took over after shadowing the previous magistrate, a man by the name of Crossley who had spent thirty-five years developing the area of Allenham, for over a year before Corssley retired from his position and went to live somewhere in Fulham.

It appeared that Syldarael’s main goal was to make the violence stop, either by strong punitive action towards the perpetrators, or by diffusing the situation by calling off the wedding. She’d rather see punishment of those who are transgressing the queen’s laws, but is willing to sacrifice her daughter’s happiness if there is no other option. She made sure to let the adventurers know only when her daughter was preoccupied.

After the adventurers departed Syldarael’s home, they talked amongst themselves about possible solutions. When the idea was raised of just continuing to Pinefall and leaving the situation in Allenham to be dealt with the Allenhammers, Emrys said that he could not allow that. Emma pledged her support, while James and Luca pledged their support grudgingly. Astrid had no strong opinion either way.

Several options were discussed and the idea of finding a suitable replacement for magistrate Strickland seemed to be a strong favourite. It was decided to go to the Allen family to see if it was possible to talk to Herman Allen. When they found him receptive to a conversation the adventurers continued their ruse of Luca being an envoy for the crown. Herman lead the adventurers to a shaded area to one side of the main building of his large farm.

Some cold milk was served for Herman and each of the adventurers. Once again, James made an effort to be rude by rejecting the offer of hospitality. He was as eager to rub the Allen family the wrong way as he was eager to show disdain for Syldarael’s family.

Under the guise of investigating the Procyon activity Luca asked Herman where he thought the violence in Allenham originated from. He claimed that the former engagement between the magistrate and his daughter Martha was water under the bridge, but that he felt that Strickland had shown favouritism towards the non-humans in allocating new farmland to them. He held no bias towards the elder races or other non-humans, and pointed at the large number of them in his employ as evidence. He rejected the idea that he had any responsibility for the violence that had occurred, including the hanging.

The conversation came to an end and the adventurers departed. They wanted to speak to Falibor, the town’s smith, and get his opinion on matters. But before they managed to find the dwarf, they stumbled upon a large group of humans violently dragging a family of halflings from their home.

Emma tried to bring the mob to a halt through divine intervention, but their anger and frenzy was complete. Astrid and Emrys advanced on the mob with their weapons drawn, and Emrys used his magic to enlarge the both of them until they were the size of an ogre, towering over the mob. This caught the angry mob’s attention, and in the confusion James, who had circled around the building to flank the mob.

During his flanking manoeuvre, James had noticed a small group of figures emerging from the tree line behind the houses and hastily climb up on the roof. They were well camouflaged, nimble and silent and James held up his hand in greeting. Seconds later the group started firing arrow after arrow from sleek longbows into the mob of humans.

In that confusion, James acted. He managed to extricated the halflings from their predicament. He told them to make their way towards the trees and onward to Syldarael’s cottage.

Luca fired searing bolts of fire and purple force at the sharpshooters, partially igniting the roof. Emrys magically raised the fury of the flames that Luca caused, and finally, Emma thundered a tidal wave on their position, dousing the flames and sending the sharpshooters in retreat.

The final tally was that nine people were shot down in a matter of seconds, only one of which could be saved by Emma, a young woman by the name of Tomira. Martha was held back and made to sit on the ground, among the dead, watched over by Astrid, while Strickland was called to the scene. Astrid had to step in when Luca started to harass Martha, trying to get her to take responsibility for the violence. Tomira asked to depart and was allowed to do so after a stern lecture from Emma.

Strickland arrived with two guards and started arranging for a cart to pick up the dead. while Luca has redirected his harassment from Martha to Strickland. The adventurers forced him to agree to hosting a meeting with certain notable people in town, in order to settle the differences and put an end to the violence.

The Allenham Pogrom

Previously, travelled from Egremont, into the Riverlands to Blackbridge aboard the Old Queen. The town, almost completely surrounded by woods, lay on the crossing of the Teign river and the bridge crossing it along the Silesian road. Getting settled in at The Grove, the local tavern and lodge, James was approached by Randall, the stern-faced captain of the guard who wanted to speak to him regarding the dagger he was carrying on his belt and his possible involvement in a string of murders. James, fearful of being made a scapegoat and having a strong disdain for authority, fled the scene. Eventually, a meeting was arranged on the bridge with the local magistrate, a flinty-eyed woman by the name of Loretta. It was agreed that the town sage would divine the truth behind the dagger, under the watchful eyes of the adventurers, minus James, who didn’t feel safe enough to come along.

Second Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

James walked back down the Silesian road, away from the bridge, to once again meet up with Emrys who was hiding in the woods, while Luca decided to stay behind and observe the ritual divination which was about to take place. Loretta lead the way back to the Black House escorted by captain Randall, his guards, Astrid and Emma.

The town sage turned out to be Loretta’s husband Callum, at least twenty years her senior and quite old. He performed a ritual that seemed to tax his strength considerably, involving the burning of incense and a collection of polished ivory sticks engraved with arcane runes.

Before James, the dagger belonged to a curious old alchemist by the name of Alfred Barnaby who ran an alchemy shop in Bournemouth. He was a man of questionable morals and backbone, but with a keen, opportunist mind, like that of a scorpion. Like a scorpion, he learned to utilise the sting in this dagger’s tail and started to experiment with the poisonous substance the blade could be coated with.

The blade came to Alfred in the hands of a wounded assassin named Orgamel, devoted follower of the Dark Queen Takhisis. Orgamel had fled Egremont when a planned assassination of a local miller’s daughter had gone awry and he had caught a guardsman’s blade to the belly. Crudely bandaged up, he stole a small fishing boat and travelled down river to Bournemouth, escaping the law and seeking aid, he had hoped to find it at the alchemist’s, only to die at the hands of the opportunistic quack.

Before the unsuccessful assassination, the blade was given to Orgamel by Melchior, a wicked man from deep in Eastmarsh who spent his entire life in service to the Dark Queen and had spread her dark influence all along the eastern coast of the Lyrian gulf for decades and had acquired a loyal following.

Melchior had been tasked to murder very specific people by Takhisis and had plotted for a decade, trying to find a way to do so. First, he created a following. Second, he trained and equiped his followers. And last, he would direct his followers to assassinate those the Dark Queen had marked for death. The blade was one of the weapons created to perform the murders. It is one of many.

In the decade leading up to Melchior being ready to execute Takhisis’ plan, he took his followers and penetrated deep into the Eastmarsh, seeking out the territory of Kalauranthalasis, an ancient green dragon who, in its old age, had grown so arrogant as to think it had no more need to fear or obey the Dark Queen.

When the humans finally came for Kalauranthalasis, it could no longer rely on its mistress and was quickly overwhelmed by Melchior and his followers. Melchior defeated Kalauranthalasis and subjugated it, chaining it and harvesting its body for its essential salts, fashioning the wicked daggers from its teeth, nails and poisonous fangs. They used the jewels from its hoard to decorate the blades, and used the dragon’s life force to enchant the blades with the same wickedness as the dragon that spawned them.

Somewhere in the Eastmarsh, Kalauranthalasis lies bound a slave to Melchior’s whims.

With the truth unveiled, Callum excused himself and was escorted away. Loretta stayed behind to address Astrid, Emma and Luca. It was decided that it would be for the best that the adventurers take the dagger far away from Blackbridge and that James would not be welcome in or around the town until he was ready to accept the Queen’s appointed authority.

The adventurers went back to The Grove and asked Keogh, the owner, whether they could resume their stay and they were welcomed back into the inn and found that their beds were vacant and their equipment untouched.

In the meantime, James and Emrys had sneaked back into Blackbridge in order to find a place for them to rest which gave them some protection from the elements. Normally able to rely on his talents, James found himself out of his depths a bit in such a rural environment, preferring instead the urban environments of places like Kingsport and Bournemouth, and so the best he could do was an abandoned pigsty on the edge of town with enough dry hay on the ground to allow Emrys a small measure of comfort.

Third Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

The following morning James and Emrys sneaked from the pigsty, through the woods back to the Silesian road and walked down to the bridge to wait for the others. The others woke up late and found that the options for breakfast were limited due to all the other guests having gotten up much earlier than they and picking the larders clean. The managed to eat some scraps but were delighted when Roswyn, the innkeep’s wife, was able to pack five lunches for them to take on the road.

Speaking with Keogh they learned that if they were quick, they might still catch up with Kedelon, an elven boatsman who was going up to Allenham by barge and was set to depart in the morning. Gathering all of their things, Luca, Emma and Astrid hastily made their way to the soggy flats of the harbour area, making as much haste as they could while simultaneously carrying the chest between them.

Arriving at the peer, they looked around for Kedelon and his barge and finally spotted him, already on his way, having passed by the bridge across the river, punting the barge upstream. Emma tried to call out to him, but couldn’t get his attention. She decided to sprint uphill, towards the bridge, and yelled down at him again, this time getting his attention. She asked if he had space for a few more passengers and he happily obliged, docking the barge on the bank north of the bridge.

The adventurers gathered up their things and climbed aboard and found Kedelon to be a friendly, elven boatsman on his way to Allenham together with Rickard and Willow, the couple who had been travelling in the same direction since Bournemouth. While Willow was handing out some fresh fruits to all aboard and Emma was chatting with the riverlanders, Luca informed James and Emrys of what had occurred at the Black House, and the information they had gained about the dagger.

Emma learned that Kedelon was the Allenham boatsman, working for the village magistrate a man by the name of Theo Strickland. Kedelon had travelled down to Blackbridge to pick up some goods and packages, including some cloth, silks and dyes that were to be used to create the clothing for the wedding feast of his sister’s.

The travel upriver was pleasant and serene with the forest on either bank remaining dense and verdant. Birds could be heard everywhere, only occasionally drowned out by the sound of a rutting moose bull. Kedelon and Astrid took turns taking the large punting poles to push the boat upstream.

Occasionally, Kedelon would stop at small river-side villages to drop off packages he picked up from Blackbridge. It was clear he was a common and welcome sight to most people along the river.

Emrys mostly kept to himself, his mood being tempered by the unnatural appearance he now bore. His silvery hair tucked underneath his hood and his radiant eyes hidden behind his blindfold. James kept to himself, unwilling to engage with the Riverlanders on a personal level.

In the afternoon the large swooping figure of a young wyvern flew overhead, its leathery wings, razor sharp claws and serpentine tail standing in stark contrast to the clear blue sky. To some this was the source of some fright, to others it was a symbol that they were travelling further away from civilisation.

At the end of the day, a small cove in the river was reached, with a shallow beach, protected from the current by two large, round boulders. A grassy clearing with access to the cove, protected by the densely leafed branches of two ash trees was to be their camp site for the night. A semi-permanent, stone fire pit stood in the middle of the small clearing and a supply of firewood could be found in the hollow of one of the ash trees. This spot was clearly used often by the travellers of the Riverlands.

While Willow and Kedelon prepared a fire and started making some stew, Rickard and James went into the woods to find fresh fire wood to replace the wood they would use during the night.

Emma approached Emrys and asked him if he would care to take a swim with her. She wanted to try seeing whether or not she could somehow dispel the magical effect that had gotten hold of him. Initially reluctant, he decided that a swim would do him well after the warm day and accompanied Emma. First they swam, relatively secluded, and then Emma cleansed Emrys in a ritual, restoring his visage to what it was before the fight with the Pesta in the basement of Alfred Barnaby’s alchemy shoppe.

Immediately after restoring Emrys back to his old appearance, his cheerful personality returned as well and while the food was being prepared he began strumming his lute. Emma, satisfied with the minor miracle she managed to perform with Sedna’s help, decided to take up Muirgheal and use it to go spear fishing in the river. Guided by Muirgheal, she speared a huge river trout, which was cleaned roasted and added to the stew for supper.

Eventually, a rotating set of guards were set up for the night and everyone bedded down. James, ever the contrarian, decided to sleep in the barge, looking up at the stars. Just before he fell asleep, he noticed that the Silvermoon was at low sanction, while the Darkmoon was at its fullest, a sign of foreboding.

Fourth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

The night went by without any disturbance, everyone who was assigned to stand guard did so without complaint. Early in the morning the remainders of the fish was served up and the stew was eaten and the camp site was once again brought to its proper state. Trash was discarded, the fire pit was tidied and the fire wood was stacked in the ash tree’s hollow to dry.

The day on the river went by quietly, listening to the sounds of the forest and the river and only occasionally being disturbed by manoeuvres having to be made to prevent the barge from hitting rocks in the river. Kedelon explained that the heat of summer was both a blessing and a curse for travelling upriver; it meant the current wasn’t as strong, making punting the barge upriver easier, but it also meant that the water level was low, making navigating the rocks a lot harder.

Midway through the morning the barge was brought to a halt as a large brown bear was standing in the middle of the river, fishing for river trout. Eventually the bear lost interest in the fish after having pawed several fish from the stream and devoured them, and went on his merry way.

It was in the early afternoon that the river began to bend off to the east ever so slightly and Kedelon announced that their arrival at Allenham was imminent. Everyone got ready once a small pier was spotted on the western bank slightly upstream and within minutes everyone was standing along a small path leading along the river. While docking, James had noticed that some smoke was rising above the trees to the north. It struck him as a different type of smoke, darker and more acrid, than normal hearth fires.

Willow and Rickard bid the others farewell, as they travelled south along the path while Kedelon and the adventurers chose to head north, towards Allenham. Soon the forest started to thin out and pretty soon a large, gnarled tree with bare branches could be seen on the bank of the river. Several dead bodies were hanging from ropes attached to different branches. Getting closer to the tree, the adventurers identified that all of the bodies belonged to non-humans, mostly elves. It became clear that racial tension had exploded in Allenham.

Kedelon identified the bodies and he became anxious to make it to his family’s cottage to make sure they were okay. Emrys and James, having elven blood, thought it best not to head into town but follow Kedelon to his family’s cottage in the woods on the edge of town. Astrid, Emma and Luca would go into town and see if they could find a place to purchase a beast of burden for their onward journey.

When Astrid, Emma and Luca walked into town they passed by several vandalised homes, some of them burnt to the ground with nothing left standing but the charred skeleton. They walked up to what passed for the rural town square, finding a large group of humans standing and milling about opposite of the largest building in town, which was guarded by two people which looked to be part of the town guard.

There was an amount of posturing from the group loitering which was making the town guard very nervous. When the adventurers asked the guards to see the magistrate, they seemed not at all to care to protect the magistrate and let the adventurers into the building after Luca pretended to be an envoy from the court.

In the meantime, Kedelon, Emrys and James had circled through the woods and found a colourful cabin surrounded by a beautiful, fragrant herb garden. Much to Kedelon’s relief, they found his mother Syldarael and sister Sylvael safely inside, together with a halfling friend of the family.

Syldarael explained that the Allen family, whose daughter Martha was once engaged to be married to Theo Strickland, the magistrate. The engagement was called off when it was revealed that the Strickland family had promised Theo in matrimony to a woman living in Bournemouth. The Allen family, and especially Martha, were disappointed but understood the situation. When, years later, Strickland got engaged to Sylvael, the Allen family felt fleeced.

An underlying animosity towards Syldarael and her family made the situation worse. Syldarael was the town herbalist, healer and midwife. She delivered Martha many years ago but unfortunately Martha’s mother, Anna, passed away from complications during birth. Herman, Martha’s father, head of the Allen family, never forgave Syldarael for losing his wife and held her personally responsible. For years he has been poisoning people against Syldarael, and by extension, against her daughter Sylvael, especially since she is training to become a healer too.

A few days prior to the adventurers arriving in Allenham, two of Martha’s cousins, Justan and Brandon, were sentenced to hang by the magistrate for the crime of destroying the smithy run by Falibor, a dwarven blacksmith who is of great strategic importance to Allenham and its surroundings. The two cousins had been in their cups one night and decided to retaliate against Falibor for firing Justan from his apprenticeship because of poor craftmanship. Thinking they were not going to be punished too harshly, the two boys had proudly admitted their crimes and quickly found themselves with a noose around their necks. This was the spark that lit the fire of racial tension.

Emrys and James spoke with Syldarael about the different ways in which the situation could be resolved. When the topic of breaking off the engagement came up, Sylvael spoke out against it. James harshly told her to shut up and in turn got rebuked by Syldarael.

To make matters worse, Procyon commandos had heard of the problems in the Riverlands and had sent a group into the area. Ostensibly to rescue non-humans from oppression, but Syldarael understood them to fan the flames of hatred. They were lead by an elf by the name of Cendelius, a sharpshooter who used to fight for the Daerlan empire against the Lyrians on the Plains of Strife before the last peace treaty was signed and he and his brigade were traded to the Lyrian empire for execution as part of the treaty. He and several others survived the massacre and became deeply embittered against both the Daerlan empire as well as the Lyrian kingdom. They were rescued by the Procyon and immediately swore allegiance to their cause.

Emrys drew Toruviel from its elaborate scabbard and seemed for a moment to commune with it. He said he was determined to protect Syldarael and her family from any harm that may befall them at the hands of the bigoted people of Allenham. Syldarael refused to have drawn weapons in her house and asked Emrys to depart. He did so and took position in front of her cabin. James was worried that Toruviel’s undue influence on Emrys and departed for the town when he saw that reasoning with Emrys seemed impossible.

Eventually James arrived at the magistrate’s house and was let inside by the guards to find Astrid, Emma and Luca talking to the magistrate. They went over all the key people involved in the conflict, their desires, their grievances and their objections. They found the magistrate was unwilling to relinquish his position in the town and eventually thought it would be best to convene a meeting between the various factions to see if fences could be mended and bridges could be restored.

Egremont to Blackbridge

Previously, the adventurers made their way from Bournemouth to Egremont on The Old Queen, a caravel carrying several passengers. Halfway through the trip a strange fog blanketed the entire river, slowing the caravel down to a crawl. The ship was attacked by several muck dwellers. Finally, another creature, stealthily moving through the fog appeared and tried to take Muirgheal away. The adventurers managed to defeat the creatures and discover that upstream, a woman in a bright blue cloak was observing the attack from a small boat. With the attack a failure, the woman departed.

Second Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

The Old Queen slowly sails up the river, slowly winding around the low sloping hills of the Bourne valley while the wind soothes your scrapes and bruises. The afternoon sun glitters off the surface of the water as the first towers of a proud castle looms into view over the crest of an upcoming hill. As the caravel inches forward the rest of the castle, settled on a hill on the southern bank of the river, comes into view. It has high walls which obscure much of the castle. Two round towers, part of the castle’s wall, are standing guard on the river. Part of an impressive bridge juts out between them high above the river. It looks like it was destroyed long ago and now serves as a vantage point to survey the river.

Across the river a broken structure made of similar stones, commemorating where the castle once connected to the northern bank. Ferries now go up and down between the embankments, shipping people, cattle and goods across. An old, cobbled road still departs from the broken bridge, heading north for several hours to meet up with the Silesian road.

Over the last couple of centuries several thousand homes have nestled themselves in the shadows of the castle walls, expanding outward from the castle’s epicentre. Rows of water mills line the south bank of the river, directly west of the castle hill. White sails of tall windmills can be seen dotting the hinterland to the south. To the east of the castle hill a modest harbour allows for the Old Queen to dock.

For those of you who have travelled the countryside, the city of Egremont is a fair sized city, for those of you who only really know Kingsport and perhaps Bournemouth, Egremont looks like a quaint village.

Late in the afternoon, Egremont came into view. A castle sat proudly on the southern river bank, with several thousand homes spreading out into the hinterland from the castle’s epicentre. The caravel was docked at a modest harbour and captain Lorne began to arrange for the empty barrels he had been carrying for the Egremont coopers to be unloaded by dock workers. In the meantime, Lady Kathleen, her children, and her sworn sword Dame Idonia disembarked.

There was some confusion about how long the caravel would stay in port, but once it became clear that it would depart for Blackbridge within two hours, several of the adventurers decided to go into Egremont and find a place to eat. Ridley asked permission for her to join the adventurers, which captain Lorne granted.

Emrys remembered a tavern by the name of The Broken Bridge, where people were sitting outside in the late afternoon sun. Food was ordered and Luca used his magic to chill the cups of their ale. Ridley, who also had gotten a mug of ale, marvelled at the trick and enjoyed the cool drink. Meanwhile, Emrys was observing the conversations of the people around them and concluded that there had been a string of seemingly random killings in Egremont which had the otherwise cheerful people worried.

Eventually the adventurers came back to the harbour and found that a halfling merchant by the name of Travik had come aboard, together with loads of produce (e.g. potatoes, onions, leeks) which he was planning on selling in Blackbridge. Besides Travik, a trio of barbers had come aboard in order to travel upriver, as well as an exotic woman of striking beauty.

The Old Queen quickly went underway once everyone was back on board and it began to travel up the river Teign. The landscape changed from the fair fields of Fairfields, into the wooded area of the Riverlands. Both banks of the river became heavily forested.

During the trip, the adventurers had an opportunity to talk to some of the other passengers. Travik turned out to know about Pinefall because he had met Lord Destan when he travelled upriver several rides previous. When asked whether he had been to Pinefall, he denied, mostly due to the brewing trouble with a brigand group by the name of the Procyon.

Luca and Emrys took the opportunity to talk to the exotic woman, who was known as mistress Esmeralda d’Ortega, a Arroyan abjurer and representative of the Circle of Mages in Kingsport. Emrys explained that the adventurers had met another abjurer from the circle when the Lyrian queen had invited Emma to court in order to bless a well. She claimed that it was likely Dr. Arkenward, the royal abjurer. The conversation meandered a bit, but the adventurers managed to learn that Esmeralda was on her way to Blackbridge in order to take the Silesian road to Kingsport from there. She was to summon her mount there, which greatly interested Luca and mildly interested Emrys. She promised to show them how to do so once they arrived.

As the Old Queen sails further north up the Teign tributary the landscapes changes considerably from the fair fields of Fairfields. The golden fields of wheat make way for the more forested hills of the Riverlands. Both banks of the river become densely wooded and the occasional deer and fawn can be seen drinking at the water’s edge from time to time. Birds can be heard to chirp, coo and warble, echoing across the river valley.

The setting sun of the late hour of the day causes the wind to pick up, which provides some much needed relief from the heat. Ridley climbs down from the mast and goes to the rear deck to stand by captain Lorne and draw one of his thick arms around her, nestling into the crook of his arm. Roddy starts rubbing the ache in one of his shoulders, while Neiman keeps an eye out over the river from the front deck.

Occasional signs of logging can be seen along the river. In wide coves the long stems of oak and ash trees float, patiently waiting for barges to take them down stream to be worked in the saw mills at Egremont.

Finally, a large stone bridge comes into view, arching over the river where the Silesian road cuts through the forest. While impressive, the bridge is too low for the caravel to pass underneath. This is as far as the Old Queen will be able to take you.

On the eastern bank of the river, directly south of the bridge, the forest opens up to reveal the town of Blackbridge. Unwalled, consisting of perhaps a thousand wooden homes, all nestled close together on the soggy flats of the east bank, the town seems well camouflaged.

Half a dozen small, wooden piers jut out onto the river. They are barely large enough to dock a boat the size of the Old Queen, but captain Lorne expertly manoeuvres the caravel towards the dock, ordering the sails to be lowered. The boat is quickly tied to the dock and the dock hands start unloading the cargo unto the pier. Several ox-driven carts stand in the soggy, black mulch near the pier, ready to carry the goods onward.

The town seems to have taken its name from the bridge and the dark soil it connects on either side.

Once The Old Queen was docked on the small pier of Blackbridge the goods were unloaded onto carts under Travik’s watchful eye. Rickard and Willow of Allenham disembarked and walked into town to find lodgings. Emma and Astrid did the same while carrying the chest of valuables. James decided to join them while Emrys and Luca left to go to the bridge together with Esmeralda to watch her perform her summoning ritual. But not before Luca conjured up a little crystal flower for Ridley as a parting gift, something she was delighted by.

Esmeralda, Emrys and Luca found a secluded spot in the woods just off the Silesian road for her to perform her ritual. Surprisingly, it didn’t take her much effort to draw a swirling fog from all directions, which formed into the shape of a large stallion. Over the course of several minutes the shape started to gain more and more detail, until it spontaneously coalesced into a real, live chestnut stallion. Esmeralda explained that the stallion was a paragon she summoned from the Feywilde.

When Esmeralda bid her farewell and departed west down the Silesian road, Emrys and Luca went back to the dock and into town to find The Grove, the only inn to be found in Blackbridge. Once there, they had found that the others had already arranged for lodgings in a common room and some delicious food. The lodgings were simple and spartan, but the food was luxurious.

During dinner the adventurers learned that a contingent of crownsguard and knights had set off from the capital to escort an emissary to parlay with Lord Mirek Radowan, whose house had stood in open rebellion to the throne ever since the crown’s refusal to meet house Radowan’s demands for more forces to protect the eastern border.

There was little entertainment in the small, forest town, and so people decided to head to the common room in order to get some rest. Luca and Astrid remained behind in the main room, where Luca read and Astrid drank. They noticed a crownsguard come into The Grove and speak to Keogh and his wife Roswyn, the proprietors of the inn. After speaking to one another in hushed tones he walked over to the common room to find James.

The conversation was short, but spiralled out of control quickly. The crownsguard was captain Randall of the Blackbridge guard and wanted to know more about the dagger that James was carrying, claiming that similar weapons had been used in the assassinations of random people in Blackbridge. James explained that he had received the dagger as payment for services rendered by a man named Barnaby, operating an alchemy shop in Bournemouth.

James began to get annoyed when captain Randall insisted that James reveal his right shoulder, seemingly looking for a mark, or a tattoo which he found significant. When James revealed no such tattoo he insisted that James disarm and accompany him to The Black House. James refused. Captain Randall repeated his command and James refused again, insulting the captain’s intelligence on top of it. Clearly not a man used to having his orders refused he decided to take a more drastic approach in order to try and bring James to heel.

Luca and Astrid, who could hear the raised voices from the main room, came to investigate what the ruckus was about, while Emma tried to stay out of the conflict. Emrys on the other hand was trying to calm the situation by trying to get the captain to engage in conversation. The captain refused to do so and kept ordering James to disarm, which James refused to do. Eventually, James tried to flee the scene, afraid that the captain would attack him. Both Luca and Emrys started slinging spells at the captain, so when the captain pursued James who had run out of the inn, they decided they had probably overstayed their welcome too. Emma and Astrid stayed behind.

James lead the captain, who was wearing heavy armour and had no way of catching up with the fleet-footed rogue, on a wild goose chase through the town, eventually losing him and doubling back. He met up with Emrys and Luca who had tried to head towards the river through the forest. They decided to rest and come up with a plan.

Emrys, who was still afflicted by the strange, radiant glow coming from his eyes, decided that now that it was getting darker outside, he shouldn’t be trying to sneak around town, and so wanted to stay behind. James and Luca snuck back into town. They decided to head to The Black House to see if any search efforts were being organised and to figure out what had happened to Emma and Astrid, after James had discovered that they were no longer at The Grove.

Sneaking to the back of The Black House, they found a room with a closed window in which Astrid and Emma were in conversation with captain Randall and an known elderly woman. From where they were sitting they could only hear the woman’s side of the story, and it seemed that the woman was eager to talk to the fugitives about the weapon. James and Luca decided to knock on the front door of The Black House. The door was opened by a young guard who immediately recognised the fugitives and yelled for the captain. Before the captain could appear, James issued a demand to parlay at the bridge in one hour, before dashing off. Luca had to trouble keeping up with James but managed to get away.

Returning to Emrys they had explained what had happened and the three of them decided to rendez-vous at the bridge an hour later. There they found Emma, Astrid, the elderly woman, the captain and several guards. Emma and the elderly woman stepped forward and approached James.

When the elderly woman, who clearly spoke with authority, suggested that it was unwise to disobey the captain’s commands, James immediately objected, telling her not to start laying down the law. She kindly reminded him that she was, in fact, the law in Blackbridge, at which point he once again refused to accept the situation and decided to walk off. Luca, who had stayed back said that this wasn’t going to resolve anything. James gave Luca the dagger and let him deal with matters instead, believing that the authorities were looking to frame him for the murders which had plagued the small town.

Luca parlayed with the elderly woman, agreeing to hand over the dagger for divination by the town sage. If that would exonerate James, she agreed that he would be free to go, but James’ refusal to recognise the authority of the town guard meant that he was no longer welcome in Blackbridge. Luca wanted to be present when the sage performed his divination ritual, to make sure that the sage would speak the truth. And so a deal was struck.

The Old Queen

Previously, the adventurers wrapped up all the loose ends in Bournemouth. They engaged Lady Ulrikke von Rosenberg in conversation about her research into strange humanoid creatures stalking the countryside of the Daerlan empire. They could push the research of the frustrated margravine into a useful direction and potentially making a new ally.

The adventurers also spent some time preparing for their upcoming trip by purchasing supplies for their trek towards Pinefall in the foothills of the Silverpines. This included a visit to Alfred Barnaby’s shop to see about some healing elixirs. They found the scatterbrained man unable to reach his supplies due to a ghostly apparition having invaded his basement laboratory. The adventurers went down and confronted the apparition, which turned out to be a pesta, a harbinger of plagues and blights, which they managed to defeat, but not without a stiff fight. One in which Emrys was strangely transformed into a radiant, almost celestial version of himself!

Second Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

The adventurers readied themselves to depart from the River Stone, heading out to the harbour in order to board a boat taking them upstream towards Egremont with the final stop being Blackbridge. Falka met them outside the inn and walked them to the harbour, bidding them a safe journey.

The ship Astrid had arranged passage on was an eighty foot, two-masted caravel, with triangle, cream-coloured sails. Astrid and Emma, who had carried the company’s chest of riches from the inn to the harbour carried it up the gangplank, at the top of which they were met by two of the crew; Neiman, a blonde-haired man with an even tan and an easy smile, and Ridley a young girl who was easily mistaken for a boy, with a cleft lip and a speech impediment. After Astrid asked permission to embark they were invited aboard with a very warm welcome.

The adventurers settled themselves on the forward deck, where Emrys, who was still wearing a heavy hood and a thick blindfold to hide the strange malady which was afflicting him, sat down with all of their belongings and started strumming his lute, playing a melancholic melody.

Everyone got a quick primer of the rules aboard the ship; the rear deck was off-limits, but the passengers were invited to walk around the main and forward decks. The passengers were also allowed to take comfort in the forward hull if they wanted to, but Astrid warned that it might cause some sea sickness if the weather turned, which prompted Luca to take his place in the middle of the main deck, determined not to fall ill.

James asked whether he would be allowed to climb the main mast and Neiman differed authority to Ridley, who looked James up and down and nodded her approval. James took an interest in the young girl and asked her to show him how to climb the mast, which she happily did. She showed herself to a dexterous and excellent climber.

When Neiman found out that Emma was a priestess of Sedna he insisted on introducing her to the captain on the rear deck. He turned out to be an old, broad shouldered, one eyed man, whose old facial scars read like a map of the world. Neiman invited Emma to bless the ship, the crew and their voyage, which she reluctantly did.

The last crew member was Roddy, a plain-faced, dark haired man who didn’t possess the same charisma or willingness to converse as his crew-mate Neiman.

Several other passengers were aboard the ship; a young lady of noble birth, travelling with her infant daughter and a young, troublesome lordling by the name of Simon. They were accompanied by a middle-aged knight by the name of Dame Idonia, whose half-plate armour and shield were gilded in vermilion, showing her to be of the Order of the Shield.

The last two passengers were a young couple; Rickard of Allenham and his young wife Willow, both commoners on their way from Bournemouth where Rickard studied botany at the academy, to Allenham where they made their home.

Captain Lorne ordered the two bosuns, Roddy and Neiman, to raise the sails while Ridley untied the ropes from the pier. Pretty soon the sails caught wind and the boat started to inch forward. Expertly the captain steered the boat onto open water before turning back towards the city and angling to go up-river along the southern fork of the river, getting a great view of the southern end of Ioun’s Isle and eventually sailing past the Landsdown auction house, where the adventurers saw the two regular guards stand at attention, boiling in the early morning sunlight. Eventually the ship left Bournemouth behind as it slowly zig-zagged upriver.

Rickard and Willow came up to Luca, attracted by the tome he was reading and tried to make small talk with him. Rickard introduced himself and his wife and explained that he was a student at the faculty of natural philosophy. He was delighted to hear Luca’s lie about being a mage studying at the Circle of Mages in Kingsport. The conversation quickly died out and Rickard excused himself and his wife and they went to introduce themselves to the noble lady and her guard.

In the meantime, lord Simon had taken to running around the deck, kicking over buckets, uncoiling ropes and – his favourite – hanging off the side of the railing so far that he could fall overboard at any moment.

Emma, who had decided to use the several hours to Egremont to meditate and further attune herself to Muirgheal, found herself increasingly frustrated by the young lordling and used a sliver of Sedna’s power to project her voice in an impressive way and catch the lordling’s attention. As soon as she did, she saw that she had frightened him significantly, and saw that Dame Idonia was advancing on her quickly. She took a knee in front of the young lord and kindly implored him to obey his lady-mother, who had been commanding him to behave ever since embarking onto the Old Queen.

That seemed to calm the young lord down for a little while, giving Emma some time to focus on Muirgheal. Unfortunately, she felt like the intelligence inside the weapon was at a constant distance from her and she wasn’t able to reach it.

The beautiful Fairfields countryside rolled by, showing off the incredible wheat fields and grazing pastures of the Bourne valley. The different lands and pastures partitioned off from one another by ancient, moss-covered, dry brick walls, like a fertile mosaic.

Luca had grown dissatisfied with being in the hot sun and had decided to take refuge inside the forward hull, confident that he would be able to stomach the motion of the ship without having an eye on the horizon. Inside, he started experimenting with some of the simple cantrips and the effect that lyrium crystals would have on them. He quickly concluded that lyrium was able to act as an arcane focus as well as a universal spell component, which was valuable knowledge to have gained from such short experimentation.

James was the first to notice a strange bank of fog coming up along the river. The crew members picked up on it swiftly and the captain ordered the sails to be lowered so that the ship would slow down. While the bosuns were taking down the sails, Ridley climbed out onto the prow to keep an eye on any possible rocks, banks or debris.

When the ship was completely enveloped in mist, a cry could be heard out followed rapidly by a splash. Little lord Simon had fallen overboard and was in need of rescue. At the same time, malicious humanoid creatures climbed aboard the ship and attacked the crew and passengers.

Luca knew them to be drowners, sometimes called muck-dwellers, a hold-over from the last Conjunction of Planes. They were a nuisance in small numbers, only troubling lone fishermen, but they were climbing up the side of the ship in numbers larger than to just be a nuisance.

Emma didn’t hesitate, took Muirgheal in hand and jumped overboard to rescue lord Simon from the drowners who were pulling him further into the depths with every second. In the meantime, the rest engaged the drowners swarming the ship.

Emma valiantly fought off the drowners and almost managed to free lord Simon from their clutches, but the underwater surroundings were new terrain for her to do battle in, despite being greatly aided by Muirgheal. Eventually she succumbed to her wounds just as the last of the drowners on the ship were defeated. Astrid came to the rescue and carried lord Simon to the ship and went back for Emma and Muirgheal.

In the meantime, a new creature had appeared, this one a master of evasion using illusions and invisibility to move through the fog. Its patterns across the ship suggested that it was trying to find something, eventually settling on Muirgheal as it was being assaulted on all sides by the passengers and crew. During this fight, Luca took a chance and cast one of his eldritch spells using a lyrium crystal as an arcane focus and saw the effects of the spell enhanced significantly!

As it tried to escape overboard, James, who had had doggedly been pursuing the strange creature, launched an arrow into it and saw the creature’s body bob to the surface of the water. He dove into the clear waters and caught up with Muirgheal before it reached the bottom.

When he resurfaced he noticed that with the death of the second creature, the fog was retreating, revealing a small rowing boat a little further upstream. Standing on the boat was what appeared to be a young woman wearing a bright blue, hooded cloak. Once she saw James had retrieved Muirgheal she turned around in the boat and it started to move away, further upstream and out of sight.

When Emma was resuscitated and everyone had recovered somewhat from their wounds, the young noble woman came to thank the company for the efforts of saving young lord Simon. She pledged that they would always be welcome at house Tolliver, the family to which she belonged.

With the situation back under control and the fog retreated, the ship went back underway and soon, Egremont came into view.