Jack the sound barrier. Bring the noise.


Recovering the Bloodstone

4th Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

After discovering the bloodstone had disappeared from the laboratory I spent most of the morning in a near-constant state of mild panic. My heart kept racing, I felt uncomfortably warm and I couldn't concentrate. Images of our battle against Nar-Narg-Naroth kept flashing through my mind like unwanted intrusions.

I managed to tell Quentyn about what I had discovered, and I saw the blood drain from his face in the same way that it must have drained from my own. He assured me he would make preparations to pursue the Sembians and retrieve the bloodstone and that gave me enough direction to calm my nerves. I retreated to the laboratory in order to prepare the necessary divinations, evocations and transmutations I would require in the pursuit.

As I prepared my spells I started to calm down. I felt like I had a clear purpose and I found peace in the focus it gave me. With each line of the necessary incantations I felt my heart grow stronger and more stable. I realised something that had never occurred to me before, something I still have a hard time putting into words.

The bloodstone pulses with magical energy every time I touch it. The tanar'ri inside uses its power to push against its boundaries, and if it wasn't for its flawlessness, the demon would manage to crack the stone's exterior and erupt from its confines and unleash itself back into this world.

A mage is not that dissimilar. Whenever I prepare my spells, I go through all the required motions and incantations and store the built up spell inside my body. My body is impregnated with the potentiality of the spell. The spell has a very short fuse that I ignite with the last motions, incantations and components. The magic erupts from my body and is unleashed upon the world.

As such, my body and mind need to be a flawless vault, to safeguard myself, as well as the others around me. I realise my body is weak. But my mind is strong. Hopefully it will be able to compensate for my frail shell. It leaves me wondering about Ulster the Black, who brought shame to my family for being a renegade mage. Was he a manifestation of a man who couldn't contain the mounting pressure inside of him? Did the pressure fracture his mind and send him into a frenzy?

Deep in contemplation and study, I was called upon by Brother David. He seemed unaware of what was going on, so I explained that the bloodstone was missing. The significance seemed lost on him. He was quite happy to be rid of the bloodstone. I said that the break in had the appearance of a deliberate act, since no other thing of value had been taken. He still seemed unconcerned.

We joined the others in the kitchen where Quentyn was busying himself getting ready to pursue the Sembians. Ser Fosco and his squire Duncan had joined and so had the trackers Jago and Widukin. I immediately asked Jago to join me in the study so that he could investigate the break-in further. He managed to find more tracks and traces and quickly confirmed my suspicions; the break-in had been deliberate and they had gone directly for the laboratory and the bloodstone!

Widukin had found tracks the Sembians left behind and had determined they were travelling north, along the Stillwater, trying to find suitable places to ford the river. Luckily, their lack of knowledge of the lands around Glister made their trek slow going and Widukin was convinced we would be able to catch up with them before they reached the falls, a place up river where it would be easy to cross to the other bank.

I started to get excited at the promise of us being able to catch up with the Sembians and retrieve the bloodstone. How long would it take for the tanar'ri in the stone to corrupt one of them and help it escape its prison? Was the demon the one who told the Sembians where to find the stone to begin with? Had the corruption already set in?

Quentyn informed brother David that he would be needed and to my disappointment he said that he would have to think about it. I was stunned to silence. Why wasn't the urgency of the matter clear to him!?

As David was partaking in the lord's breakfast, something he was want to do, Quentyn took his plate and told him to think about it outside. Without saying anything David left. I didn't understand what was happening. Why would he undermine Quentyn in front of the rest? In front of Ser Fosco!? This wasn't the first time he publicly undermined him. The last time was at the moot, where he spoke out in opposition of Quentyn. Was David purposefully undermining him? If so, why? If not, then why would he not council him in private? I felt had to find out.

I followed him outside. I asked him what he was doing. Unfortunately, I admit I said it in that blunt and foolhardy way I default to when I'm on edge. To his credit, David calmly told me he needed to prepare Glister for winter. A winter with fifty extra mouths to feed.

What I still don't understand is; he knows of the work I've been doing to increase yield, he knows I did the calculations, he knows I did the risk assessments, he knows what is at risk if we let the bloodstone loose. He saw the spider demon! Why he would insult me by pretending Glister couldn't afford to lose the manpower to retrieve the stone!?

Most of all, how could he think that Glister would be better off with a lord that was perceived as weak? A lord that was constantly under attack from his rearguard? I told him not to disobey Quentyn again and left. As I turned around I heard a snort of derision, I sound I unfortunately have grown all too familiar with, but I had more important things on my mind than to engage David any further.

He had all of the facts; there was nothing he would be able to do in the time we would pursue and retrieve the bloodstone that would better prepare Glister for the winter. He forced me to regard him as an agent de mauvaise foi, as my mother would have called him.

Back inside, Ser Fosco was keen to show his worth, but wanted his squire Duncan to stay behind and coordinate the settlers in his absence. Initially Quentyn wanted him along, but I convinced him that if the squire were to work together with Creighton the two of them would do well together. Duncan, on his part, said he would take up the charge.

My sense of the squire was that in the long run he would be a powerful ally. His temperament was such, I reckoned, that he would be able to temper some of Ser Fosco's baser urges and be a positive influence on the knight. The only thing we could hope for was that Duncan's moral compass was strong enough not to pick up any bad habits from his liege.

While Ser Fosco couldn't offer up any information on the Sembians apart from that they were battle hardened, he did offer to take several settlers as backup. Quentyn requested three men to join, and I asked for Gunnar to be included.

Quentyn and I spoke in private and he asked me what to do about David. I told him what David had said to me, and that he couldn't let this stand. David's convictions were not required, just his obedience. Quentyn talked to Godric and his brother, and ordered Godric to come along and for his brother to make sure the militia kept up with training in Quentyn's absence.

Right when I thought it was time for all of us to depart, Quentyn picked up a travel pack and departed Wizard's Hill. It was so sudden and unexpected that I couldn't talk to him before he left. An hour later he returned with David. Somehow he had either convinced David to come along, or supplicated, a thought I did not relish.

We headed north across the Newmark and into the wild, west from the Stillwater. It was likely the Sembians had stayed close to the river, but it would mean our pursuit would be more easily detectable. Jago took the lead, then Quentyn, then Ser Fosco, then came a settler named Marcus, Godric, another two settlers named Jorik and Henrik, then myself, followed by David and Widukin.

We were about six hours into our journey when we moved closer to the Stillwater to stop and eat. We had taken small breaks to rest our feet, but this was the first time I felt like I wasn't being rushed. I thought I was able to keep up the first couple of hours, but after a while the strength just left me and I couldn't persist as fast as the others.

David came to me and said that he had noticed me faltering. He asked me if I wanted to accept his lord's blessing. I didn't respond immediately because of the distrust this man had built up in me over the last day. I wouldn't have questioned his offer before the moot, but now I felt the hesitation grip my innards. I quickly came to the realisation that I was here with a purpose that was important, and that I was willing to do what needed to be done. I wasn't going to disappoint Quentyn. I said "yes."

The feeling of strength that filled my limbs felt fantastic! It had been so long since I didn't feel at least somewhat sick and these rare moments of fortitude were so precious to me that I was always shocked at how easily I had forgotten what it felt like. I decided that I'd be remiss not to use this opportunity to try some of the food and ale that the locals consumed!

I asked Jago how fresh the trail was that we had been following. He guessed no more than a couple of hours old. I quickly did the math, based on the time the Sembians left, the time we left and our speed of travel. They couldn't have been more than half a league away from us. I sent out Blackwing and she came back a little while later reporting that she had seen torches close by.

When we were on the move shortly after and soon we started to notice sounds coming from what was likely the Sembian group ahead of us. When I let Blackwing take flight again, she gave me a good sense of where the Sembian group was. The rest of our party was discussing the best way to approach the Sembians, and at the same time I cast a divination to allowed me to locate the bloodstone. I felt it throbbing with abyssal power, so close it felt like I could almost touch it.

Locate Object
Haalvut fin miiraad ahst aan fin.
Sense the path toward a thing.

I was so distracted by the tug I felt on the periphery of my senses that I didn't realise the plan was to catch up and overtake the Sembians and head them off at the falls. Before I knew it Jago had excellently lead us onward and we arrived at the falls without incident.

The falls was nothing more than some rapids on a slope at the edge of a small lake. Somehow the Stillwater had hit upon a block of granite that it was unable to push out of its path nor etch down over the centuries. The block made for a natural dam and a good place to get across the river without having to wade through deep waters.

5th Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

We took up position at the top of the rapids and prepared to encounter the Sembians. Jago stabbed his torch into the ground, and I took his lead as I offered up a prayer to Chauntea. When the Sembians came within sight they held their ground for a moment. Quentyn stepped forward and called for them to relinquish the stone and that all would be well. I cannot imagine how he expected the Sembians to believe that, if they would surrender it would only be just for at least Mattheo to be sentenced to death, regardless of the extenuating circumstances. Despite my doubts, three torches broke off from the group and proceeded forward.

Suddenly a hulking figured appeared right next to me and smashed Henrik to pulp with a sickening crunch! Chaos ensued and the first thing I did is snatch a small strip of leather from my pouch and twist it into a loop. That was the spark that lit the fuse to unleashing the transmutation power that was stored inside of me. I rapidly levitated up into the air and out of danger.

Fus kotin faal su.
Force into the air.

Hovering high above the battle that was raging down below me, I got a better sense of what was going on. An ogre had somehow sneaked up to us and attacked our party. Across the Stillwater I noticed more ogres, one of which was horned and clothed in more sophisticated garb. It touched the shoulder of another brute standing next to him, and that one turned into a vapour and quickly rolled across the surface of the Stillwater and slid down the rapids towards the Sembians.

It was an ogre mage. I only hoped that the Sembians were not in league with that powerful creature.

From up on high I retrieved a small clump of sulpher from one pocket, some goopy fat that I had purchased off The Hoof from another, and rubbed it together. I sprinkled the jelly with some iron shavings and felt the components tap into the stored arcane energy inside my body like a spigot. A sphere of fire ignited at the location I had been concentrating on, right amidst the ogres across the Stillwater.

Flaming Sphere
Zu'u ag hi voth aan krein do yol.
I burn you with a sphere of fire.

Chaos erupted among the group as one of them caught fire. Another started attacking the sphere with its club. I managed to manipulate the ball towards the other ogres and I noticed the dimwitted ogre who was swinging his club was in danger of hitting his friends. A scuffle started to break out among them and I was glad for the confusion amid their ranks.

Unfortunately the horned ogre mage, well known for having a very keen intellect, wasn't going to let a simple invocation cause such distraction. It callously countered my invocation with one of its own, extinguishing the fire with a blast of frost that killed the dimwitted ogre outright. It was not just powerful, it was also willing to sacrifice its thralls.

The horned ogre lost interest in what was happening across the rapids and retreated back into the wilderness, but not before sending two of its thralls across the rapids. One of them stumbled and fell down the rapids, swept away by the Stillwater's current. The other one was met and dispatched by the rest of the party below.

I dared to descend, touch down and run towards the slope leading to the Sembians. I jumped and levitated up again, using my forward momentum to get closer to the Sembian group, who were now stuck in a battle with the ogre that had been turned to vapour and several lizard-like humanoids. The ogre had reformed to its normal form and had been laying waste to both the Sembians as the lizards. The lizards were secreting a strange fluid from the glands close to their necks. It was causing great distress in everyone around them, causing them to gag and retch involuntarily.

Quentyn was badly wounded by a spear to the gut, but regardless helped in defeating the ogre and the lizards. The Sembians had taken refuge among our party, so when the fighting was done they were wise enough to throw down their arms. Quentyn demanded the bloodstone, and received it from the traitorous Mattheo Prencipis.

As Jago searched the surviving Sembians for weapons and bound them for transport, and while David started administering to all the wounded, I made sure the Sembians weren't carrying any more magical artifacts. As it turned out, Mattheo was carrying a crude, green hued long sword that exuded a magical aura. It almost looked like it was made from bronze, aged by time. I made sure to keep it with me.

Quentyn gave me the bloodstone. It was familiar with its perfectly round cut, dark, blood red surface with thick black veins running deep within its core. The throb of power locked within was hauntingly familiar. I reckoned David was best equipped, both mentally and physically to keep the stone safe. Regardless of all else, I trusted him to do that.

I tried to help David administer to the wounded and watched him pull a Sembian from the brink of death. The man was in shock and shaking uncontrollably. I offered him one of my blankets to keep comfortable. Until Quentyn decided what to do with them, I was going to treat them more fairly than they had treated us.

At that point, Quentyn decided to execute the surviving lizards, who in turn secreted the vile mist in their death throws. It sent my stomach into violent upheaval and I voided the contents of my stomach all over myself. The bodies of the fallen were burnt, including Henrik. I took my rest near the prisoners. I felt absolutely miserable.


The Day of the Moot

3rd Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

The day of the moot arrived and I felt myself getting nervous. A lot was riding on Quentyn's ability to convince the Glisterians, as well as on his ability to keep Ser Fosco's greedy manipulations in check. My part had been played out, or so I thought, and I decided to ask Quentyn to go over the numbers one more time. That morning, I woke up thinking that the economy and thus the prosperity of all the inhabitants of the Oldmark and the New was all that mattered.

I arrived in the kitchen to break my fast and I found that Creighton and Mund had joined the lord of the house at the table. Godric and... his brother came in shortly after but seemed unsure of whether or not they were allowed to join in. Quentyn had lost his temper with them and banned them from the kitchen table the previous day and now they just didn't know where they stood.

To my surprise and disappointment, Quentyn welcomed them at the table by setting up their couverts. I don't know much about rearing knights, but I imagine it's much like children and training animals; you have to be consistent. I wonder if our lord's temperament isn't unsuitable to the task of instruction. But Quentyn managed to make the men comfortable and they soon were feasting upon Mund's excellent cookery.

A few moments later the good lord had visitors asking for an audience. He received them immediately, thinking, like I had, that there was another emergency to deal with, but to our surprise three women from The Hoof, lead by Mirthe, brought a beautifuly woven robe, dyed in the colours of the House Martell heraldry, with the Martell crest adorning once side of the robe and Harren Demonsbane's crest of the stag adorning the other.

It was a beautiful garment and it convinced me to visit the looms on The Hoof to see if I could commission something nice. Winter was coming and my clothing had become quite threadbare during the last two years so something new was in order. Mirthe told us that the embroidery had been done by Gustav's daughter, and my mind was racing to come up with an appropriate design for myself. Hopefully, I will be able to afford something.

After the women had left I took dictation from Quentyn of a letter he wanted to send to Lord Simony Balta, the Western warden of Vaasa. Normally, I wouldn't offer my services as a scribe like that. Not that I feel it is beneath me, but I do think my time is better spent elsewhere. I made an exception because I wanted Quentyn to get used to the feeling of being a lord. And a lord needs a steward and council that dictates letters like this. I'm surprised Quentyn doesn't call on Creighton for these type of tasks more often.

He wrote that Lord Simony's scouting party had not been seen in or around Glister and that we would be honoured to send a party to investigate their disappearance. He assured Lord Simony that he would send word as soon as possible.

After drying, sealing and sending the letter off I broached the sensitive subject of Quentyn's successor. I felt that if he was going to be an adventuring lord, that he should make clear who his successor would be in case of his untimely departure. I told him that it was a good housekeeping to have it in writing even if he had no ambitions to put himself in harms way.

He admitted that he had not given it any thought. I asked after his family members and he shared that he had an older brother, already standing to inherit the family's lands and titles, and a younger sister whom he didn't consider up for the task. He was going to give it some more thought after the moot.

We spent some time running through the four scenarios Creighton and I had come up with. He picked up the particulars and highlights of each of the four scenarios, but I never got the feeling he truly grasped the intricacies. Put Quentyn in a room with people and he burns brightly, but ask him to do basic arithmetic and he is no more enlightened than most others. Luckily, he is surrounded by competent advisers like Brother David, Creighton, Jago and myself.

Once I was satisfied that Quentyn would be able to convey the significance of each of the scenarios to the Glisterians, albeit in an unsophisticated way, Brother David joined us to share his experience in talking to the Glisterians during the morning. He said that many of the Glisterians had intimated that they were wondering about the need of the moot. Does this mean that a moot had not been necessary? Had it just been Wulfric's way to move Quentyn to action? Wulfric's call for the moot had finally spurred him to action.

The moot holds a revered place in Glisterian society. The outcome of a moot is considered an almost spiritual bond and an obligation that cannot be undone. A charismatic person with a knack for politics could maneuver Glisterians in accepting things and forcing the lord in backing plans that might not be in their best interest, simply by manipulating the moot.

The conversation once again turned to Quentyn's reluctance in accepting magical aid. He was opening to me casting a passive enchantment that would allow our group to whisper messages to one another and communicate together without others knowing, but he was not going to budge on accepting the blessing of Ilmater which would allow him to further convince his audience. He saw it akin to beguiling the Glisterians. Before the last word had been uttered on the subject, Jago came to the keep.

Jago had spotted Ser Fosco on The Hoof, talking to Wulfric. I immediately dispatched the Blackwing to spy on the conversation. It also sparked my memory; I had plans on doing further research on Ser Fosco's ancestry. I departed for the study and started to take more time in research. The books on Cormyrian lineages and genealogy that the late Lord Marbrand had in his library did teach me something about House Ganivet, but nothing concrete. I could neither confirm or deny any of the Ser Fosco's claims. I decided to accept his word on his honour as a knight.

When Blackwing returned she didn't seem too happy. I had to bribe her with corn in order for her to tell me what she had found out. "Knight man, the knight, he pleading. The knight ask things, favours, ask "look kindly." Wulfric kind, big man kind. They shake hands. Friends when leaving, I see." I thought it was unsurprising that Ser Fosco was going around making contacts with the Paragons. I would have done the same if I had been in his position.

Brother David overheard Blackwing giving her report and decided to go and talk to Wulfric to see what had been discussed. I went upstairs so I could get the elevation I needed to spot Ser Fosco. I suspected he was going to go and see the Widow next, but it turned out he was headed to Glister proper. Later I would come to suspect he had visted Haëlla next.

When I came back down I noticed Quentyn was busy dressing his squires Godric and his brother. He was using some of the clothing he had brought from Cormyr to outfit the squires. The clothing had been little used over the last two years and seemed ruffled and faded. I decided that a small enchantment to mend small tears and clean the stains was in order.

Drehil do kren.
Undo the damage.

Once we were all ready we departed for the longhouse. This was the first moot in several years, since Quentyn was awarded his inheritance, and so a lot of people had showed up. I took my place with Gustav and his daughters who, as always, represented Glister proper. The Hoof was represented by Wulfric and Gottfryda, Wizard's Hill by Arnulf and the Widow, and Haëlla represented Glister South.

With all of Glister's eyes on the moot, I decided it might be best to have Blackwing flying across the Oldmark to keep an eye out on the surroundings. This would be a perfect opportunity for the settlers to turn cloak and put the longhouse to the torch and take over.

Ser Fosco was present with his squire Duncan Croga and two Cormyrian soldiers. Their attempt at unity was a lot more impressive than Quentyn's as they were dressed in armour, complete with tabards which matched the colours of House Ganivet.

I pulled out a thin piece of copper wire and cast the enchantment that allowed our group to communicate with one another and asked Brother David to talk to Ser Fosco since he was unaware of what to do next on account of never having been at the moot. This is probably what we looked like when we first attended a moot.

Faal zul tinvaak nol gut.
The voice speaks from afar.

Creighton opened the ceremony of the moot and gave the floor to Quentyn, naming him Lord Quentyn Martell of House Martell, Lord of Glister and all its environs. It sounded very regal, and I noticed Quentyn's chest swell up with pride.

When Quentyn spoke, he spoke of his plans for the settlers, about the Gift and his investment and how together, the settlers and the Glisterians would provide the Cormyrian refugees a new home. Initially the people of Glister seemed confused by Quentyn's tone, which I admit sounded like he was asking the Glisterians for permission. He seemed to notice it too, and quickly shifted his tone.

When it was Ser Fosco's turn to speak, my blood began to boil.

Ser Fosco made a counter offer. He wanted to liberate a keep, though which one was unclear. I assumed it was the keep in the Southern foothills of the Galena Mountains, occupied by lizard men and forcing caravans from Hulburg to detour on their way to Glister. I wondered whether Ser Fosco was even aware of the situation at the High Pass.

Ser Fosco's offer was such a naked grab for power that I could hardly contain myself. It was clear he was only interested in a land grab, securing a holdfast for himself that would allow him to survive the winter in warmth and comfort, safe behind sturdy walls. He had no interest in helping the people he had lead her build their homes and make a new life!

Quentyn must have realised the same thing, because he pivoted back to his original offer. To my astonishment Brother David interrupted and started pleading for Ser Fosco to liberate the keep. Ser Fosco saw that as his opportunity to change the tone of his offer, but not the content; he would liberate the keep in honour of "his lord" and hold the keep in "his lord's name."

I couldn't stand to watch the charade continue. I lost my temper. He was showing not one of the five chivalric virtues and I accused him of self-enrichment. The moment my outburst had faded, I once again realised why I had left Cormyr behind. I was not good at this part. Naked calculations I could do, but I could never then wrap their conclusion in subtlety and subterfuge.

I felt sick to my stomach as I felt the confusion at my outburst ride through the crowd.

Quentyn rallied, however, he offered that the keep would be held by Godric and his brother, Quentyn's two squires, with their mother's permission -- a jape that send laughter throughout the crowd. It was a power move and it had paid off. Everyone was very positive to see that who they considered was one of their own was being elevated to the same level as a knight.

While all this was going on, I had spied Gunnar standing at the entrance to the longhouse, just outside. He had been looking on with some interest at the proceedings, fascinated by the spectacle. At that time, Blackwing informed me that close to a dozen people left north from the Newmark. The descriptions I could made me think that they were Sembians, but I couldn't be sure.

I was about to leave to talk to Gunnar, but Quentyn saw me get up and motioned me to sit back down. Apparently it would be considered bad form for me to leave mid ceremony.

Quentyn then asked for Ser Fosco's fealty, and the knight knelt. Vows were exchanged between the two men, much to the satisfaction of the Glisterians. At that point the moot was adjourned and Quentyn took Ser Fosco and his men to the Timbered Keep for a celebration.

I immediately went to talk to Gunnar and asked him about the departing group. He seemed genuinely surprised that people had left the Newmark, and was more than a little baffled about how I had known that. He said that some men were hard to tie down and that he had never expected all of the settlers to remain, regardless of the outcome of the moot. I asked him to hold a head count at the camp and report to Wizard's Hill in the morning.

After talking to Jago he offered to go out with Widukin to investigate where the departing group had head for. I resigned myself to not being able to do something about the situation, so I decided to walk Gustav and his daughters back to his home. Gustav seemed very pleased with the outcome of the moot, and that Quentyn had taken charge of the situation in such a lordly fashion.

I returned to Wizard's Hill.

4th Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

When Gunnar arrived at the keep the next morning, he bore news that Matteo Princepis had lead several Sembians into the wilds north of the Newmark. To Gunnar it seemed that they had never intended to settle. Apparently, they had come to the Oldmark to eavesdrop on the moot and when it went the way it did, they decided to leave.

I invited Gunnar to break his fast and asked Mund to see him out once he was done. I retired back to the study to investigate Ser Fosco's heraldry a little better.

Arriving at the study I noticed several things were out of place. I immediately retreated in my last memory of the study and started to compare what I remembered to what I saw. I have always had a strong ability to recall, which has helped me to study as fast and as hard as I have in the past.

I started to check the windows and found that one of them had not been locked properly. I looked out of the window and saw no real tracks in the soil underneath, nor did I find any soil on the inside of the window. I realised quickly that I should ask Jago to take a look at the study the moment he returned, and I decided to leave as not to disturb any evidence.

Just as I was locking up the study a thought came to me and I rushed down the hidden spiral staircase to the laboratory to make sure the bloodstone was still there.

To my horror, it was gone.


My Parents

Lord Harlberstam Redwyne

My father is Lord Halberstam Redwyne, Duke of Fulcestershire, Marquess of Montrose and Beauclaire, Earl Redwyne of Belford, Viscount Aberuthven, Lord of Redgarden, Lord of Closeburn, Baron of Dunbar. I'm fairly sure I've forgotten half a dozen titles. All of them earned by our illustrious ancestors through conquest, marriage or reward.

Politically, my lord-father is quite an important man who is well loved by most other dukes, princes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, lords and barons. And there is not a village, hamlet, farm or tavern in Fulcestershire where the smallfolk don't raise their glasses and cups in toast to the health and good fortune of my lord-father.

Lady Madeleine-Élodie Montmorency

My lady-mother is the only daughter of Viscount Montmorency of Beauclaire, whose family have held faith with mine for generations. One of the oldest noble families in Cormyr. Any of the grand families would have tripped over themselves to make a marriage with her.

She and my lord-father's sister, lady Sylvia, were of an age and very close friends. Their friendship was forged while spending their time at court as handmaidens to princess Iris. When my lord-father appeared at court for the Shieldmeet festival, he and my lady-mother were introduced and fell head over heels.

The Grand Marriage

When news of their mutual interest became common knowledge, lady Sylvia was overjoyed and princess Iris became involved in the arrangement. They were married at Redgarden Keep at the Midsummer festival, exactly two years since their first meeting.

The marriage was a grand affair, and the newlyweds were the envy of all. Married on an auspicious day, loved by commoners and nobility, the future seemed bright. Two great houses united and exchanged titles. Lord Marcus Redwyne, third of his name, received the title of Marquess of Montrose and Beauclaire, a prestigious hillside area known for their exquisite vineyards. My lady-mother's father, Lord Louis-Antoine Montmorency received the title of Viscount of Caerruthers, a fertile garden region of Fulcestershire.

The relations between the two houses had already been warm, but now their interests were entwined in a way that had previously been considered unthinkable in the tumultuous and oftentimes cutthroat political landscape of the Cormyrian nobility.

The Honeymoon

On their honeymoon, my parents toured Beauclaire with a small entourage and settled at a small estate in the middle of the vineyards called Corbeau Rouge. For more than a year, they enjoyed their new marriage in privacy. They received friends and family from time to time, but otherwise, my lord-father was said to have been busy with the farmers and vinters at the estate perfecting a wine that would do our family's name proud.

The Succession

Unfortunately, their peace was cut short with the illness of my lord-grandfather, and they returned home to Redgarden. My lord-father took over the duties as Lord of Redgarden Keep and as Duke of Fulcestershire. He would sit at his father's bedside and talk quietly for long hours. Anyone interrupting the two were curtly sent away. My lord-grandfather's steward, Ser Osmund Waynwood, was sometimes requested to witness these conversations. He would only share that the two lords were preparing my lord-father's succession. His father still had many things to share and wanted to do so before his spirit faded and he would return to Chauntea's embrace.

It would still be another year before my lord-grandfather passed away and he was laid to rest in the crypts below Redgarden Keep. His funeral was said to be a large and solemn affair, attended by many - even the king. My lady-mother told me that the year of my lord-grandfather's illness was the year in which my lord-father changed. Before he was an amicable man, one quick to smile and with a compliment or kind word never far from his lips. After his father passed, he became to a grave lord who bore the weight and responsibility of his station and took his duties very seriously.

Lord Halberstam's Reign

Soon after the funeral, my lord-father decreed that the duchy would no longer settle with being Cormyr's grain supply. No longer would it sit idly by and have other lords neglect their duties to feed their people only to lean on the ample supplies of Fulcestershire. He negotiated fair prices for the food stocks sold to other lordships and those prices weren't always paid in coin. The gold that would flow into the family coffers were used to shore up existing defenses, expand new defenses in the form of watch towers, and several permanently manned garrisons throughout the duchy.

The increase in prosperity and security made my lord-father well loved by his people. His vassal lords found in him a strong and fair ruler, the commoners felt safe and saw their larders fully stocked, and there was more work to go around. Common men could aspire to join the military and work their way up. Some of them were knighted for their efforts, and in very rare occasions they would even be awarded a plot of land or small holdfast, like in the case of Ser Anguy of Enslow, who was responsible for the search and eventual apprehension of Edwyn the Dread, a priest of Bane with close ties to Zhentil Keep who had been terrorising the area around Wellingsborough, in the north-eastern part of the duchy. These men were honoured and celebrated, giving the commoners someone to cheer and aspire to emulate.

My lord-father's justice was as decisive as it was fair. He would leave adjudication to his vassal lords in order to give them a sense of agency, but opened his audience hall for one day every two rides for people, commoners and nobility alike, to have matters adjudicated by him personally, or Ser Osmund Waynwood in his absence. Sometimes he would ride out with his knights and the Fulcester priests of Chauntea to deal with matters personally. The minstrels still tell tales of his men battling the undead infestation at Felixstowe and Shotley Gate.

The Pursuit of an Heir

The first time my lady-mother's womb quickened was shortly after my lord-grandfather passed away. It was said my father was overjoyed. Unfortunately, complications lead to miscarriage. The next two pregnancies resulted in stillborn births. My lady-mother told me about those dark days, but only on grim winter nights at the fireside, wrapped in a blanket, with a cup of hot, spiced wine in hand. Two more miscarriages followed. My lady-father grew desperate, but never once blamed my mother. Priest of the Chauntaic order of Fulcester were brought in to tend to my mother before, during and after every failed pregnancy.

Eventually, the Montmorency family started to get involved, and convinced my lord-father to allow them to bring in some aid. Through their vintnership, they had contacts in the far off land of Halruaa, well known for their Haerlu wines and their expertise in magic. My lord-father initially objected due to his innate prejudice against magic but eventually was convinced by my lady-mother. A fertility expert was brought in and together with the Chauntaic priests managed to help my mother conceive and give birth to me.

I was born Ethan Redwyne of Fulcestershire, the Marquess of Montrose and Beauclaire.


Preparing for the Moot

1st Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

After talking to Creighton about the work we'd have to do first thing in the morning, I retired back to my room in the keep. I looked out of the window of my room and heard the quiet whispers coming from the settlers' camp to the north. I reckoned the camp was no more than a mile away and that gave me an idea. I spoke to Blackwing and asked her to keep an eye on Ser Fosco's tent, easily recognised by his flag flying proudly above it. With an angry flutter of feathers that magnificent bird took off.

What little remained of the evening I spent studying my spells. I am ambitious and eager to fly by Blackwing's side. I've followed the lineage from Mage Hand to Feather Fall, to Levitate and I hope that if I study hard enough I will be able to attain flight that gives me a greater degree of mobility and control.

2nd Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

Early in the morning I met with Creighton in the study. He had brought the required ledgers for us to come up with several economic scenarios from which Quentyn could choose. We worked while we broke our fast. It turns out Creighton kept meticulous records of all production over the last few years. Considering Lord Marbrand's varied investments in local businesses, we had a lot of material to work with. I did most of the mathematics and risk assessments and came up with four likely scenarios.

By the time I was supposed to meet Quentyn and Brother David in Glister proper, I had decided to send Blackwing to deliver my apologies. I felt my talents would best server Quentyn if I would take the extra time to finish the work so that he would be well prepared to face the Glisterians at the moot.

At noon Quentyn and Brother David arrived back at the keep for lunch. I had been so busy with work that I had failed to notice a bird had arrived with a message from Lord Balta, the Western Warden of Vaasa. Apparently he had sent a scouting party to clear the High Pass and claim the keep there, but hadn't heard from them in over a ride. He inquired if they had been spotted in or around Glister.

Quentyn's concern was that if Lord Balta would take the keep at the High Pass it would mean that Quentyn couldn't. Not without ousting Lord Balta's men and setting off a territorial dispute with a neighbouring lord. One that Quentyn likely wasn't able to win. He felt he should claim the keep before Lord Balta did. Another item on his ever-growing list of matters of import.

Yesterday, Widukin and Jago brought another small keep to Quentyn's attention. One that was in the foothills of the Galena Mountains to the south east, towards Hulburg. According to the two trackers there is a lot of Lizardmen activity in the area, which means a rather significant detour for any caravans coming from that direction.

Two keeps, one to the north east, the other to the south west. Securing both of them would improve trade relations, and securing the one to the north east would also win a territorial dispute before it starts. Hopefully we'll resolve the matter of the settlers at the moot with enough support that we will be able to focus on the keeps.

Creighton was happy to go over the numbers of the different scenarios and give them a good polish. After hearing Jago mention that the High Pass keep was said to be haunted, I decided to do some quick research in the Marbrand library. The more information we'd have, the easier it was to prioritise the taking of High Pass keep and the recovery of Lord Balta's scouts. Meanwhile, Quentyn and Brother David decided to visit the Widow. Her support at the moot, as with Wulfric's, would be crucial.

After a short while I had found references to several keeps in the High Pass region. It was quite possible they all referred to the same structure, just mentioned under a different name due to changing allegiances or rulership. It was clear that whatever was there was meant to guard the High Pass, and perhaps even the Low Pass.

Since the High Pass lays on the south-western border of Vaasa it was controlled by the Witch King during his brutal and unholy reign. It's not unlikely that it was the seat of some very evil people, and perhaps even one of the Witch King's undead minions. This could explain the keeps superstitious reputation. At least, I hope it's superstition.

When Quentyn and Brother David returned they told me of the meeting with the Widow. Judging the mood of the two men, I got the sense that the meeting was less fruitful than they had hoped. The way they spoke, the doubt in Quentyn's voice, his choice of words...

Having observed my lord father govern his lands, I find the contrast between him and Quentyn quite shocking. My father always appeared to be just and fair but uncompromisingly stern and steadfast. Quentyn doesn't seem to posses the conviction of his rule. David also speaks to him as if he's a common rube. Upon reflection, I probably patronise him in the way I speak to him. If even his closest advisors don't offer him his due respect, how are the townsfolk going to respond to him?

I suggested that Brother David and I take the evening to visit the camp in order to find out what kind of labourers the settlers had been before they took up arms. I had already sent out Blackwing to keep an eye out for the source of their food, and she had reported back that the settlers seemed to forage and trap small game.

When we arrived at the camp the mood had changed significantly compared to our first visit. We were welcomed and allowed to walk the camp without a problem. It seemed that Ser Fosco had made good on his promise to keep his men in line.

An amicable conversation with Gunnar revealed that there were two blacksmiths in the camp, several hunters and trappers, and that they had several novice herbalists, a few leatherworkers, tanners and cobblers. Bakers, cooks, tar makers, fletchers were also present. Most of the men came from farming stock, so they would be able to till the land and grow enough crops to become self sufficient.

We spoke with the Hammer (the official name of one serving Tempus) about the moot and he was genuinely shocked to hear that the Glisterians had a say in the decision making. That while Quentyn's opinion carried a lot of weight, that his rule was not an absolute one. The Hammer decided to share that Ser Fosco's tactic had been to undermine Quentyn as lord by purposefully causing friction between the settlers and the Glisterians. Likely, he'd never have done that if they had known just how decisions were made in the town.

We decided to talk with all the settlers but for some reason we weren't really able to get a good conversation going. Perhaps it was late or they were distrustful, but we couldn't get through to them and they wouldn't offer up too much of their background and skills. I resorted to figuring out their trades by looking at some of the tools they had laying around.

Another thing; I spoke to Gunnar to see if he could get his hands on some wine. I told him I'd be willing to pay, barter or trade. Let's hope he'll be able to find some among the settlers.

When we returned to the keep on Wizard's Hill, we found Quentyn sitting in the courtyard, by himself. He looked dejected and somewhat forlorn. We spoke about what we had discovered at the settlers' camp, and about the strategy at the moot. I suggested that Ser Fosco should come with us to retake the keep at the High Pass as a task for his new lord. Brother David wisely suggested that his right hand Matteo should take a small group to retake the keep in the south east. Split them up. See if we can form a bond with Ser Fosco.

At one point, Brother David spoke to Quentyn in a manner that didn't suit me. It was then that I noticed Harald's belt, with that intricately carved bone stag at the buckle. The stag's details had receded and faded, as if by intense use. The antlers that the stag displayed were worn down compared to when I had first seen and investigated the belt, as if by long use. I took out my scrying crystal and spoke a few arcane words of divination.

Detect Magic
Mindok pah lah.
Know all magic.

It was true, the power of the belt had severely diminished. My mind raced for an answer. At first, I thought that maybe I had overlooked the possibility that the belt's magic was finite and that with common use the power would slowly wane.

But then it occurred to me that the belt was Uthgardt in origin, created by its members to reflect their chosen totem. The totems of the Uthgardt were made to reflect their ideal. The bear was powerful. The wolf was loyal. The cat was sly. Quentyn wore the belt and it showed his ideal; the stag -- regal, commanding and proud. Quentyn's mood was fueling the belt and it was losing power as Quentyn was losing faith in his ability to command.

I immediately tried to reassure him. I referred to him as my lord, and paid him his proper dues. I assured him of my confidence in his plan and his ability to lead the people of Glister. I noticed that the power of the belt returned almost immediately. I should remember that the belt will give me a good reflection of how capable Quentyn is feeling as a lord.

One last thing of note about our conversation. Something that Quentyn had neglected to share with us is that besides this group of settlers, there were two more groups coming up from Cormyr. If they are each the size of the current group, it would mean that Glister's number would swell by eighty and one hundred. That would be more than an increase of half the original inhabitants, and something our current economy would certainly not be able to support. It was unlikely the other two groups would risk arriving in the middle of winter, so that would mean they would arrive in the spring at the earliest. We would have to start preparing for their arrival. And we would have to do it soon.

It sickens me to think that I left my family, I left the circle, I left my homeland, all in order to avoid politics. Anything to avoid politics. And now I'm in the employ of a Cormyrian lord learning how to be a lord even though he was never groomed by his family to become one. The gods are playing a cruel joke on me.


The Settlers

1st Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

It has been two years since the battle with Nar-Narg-Naroth. Much has changed on the Oldmark. The new Lord of Glister has shaped up the militia and has built a palisade along the moat, further separating the Oldmark from the Newmark. Harald has been replaced by Widukin as the paragon of the foresters and he has been working in concert with Jago to open up new and secure old trade routes.

The village has grown and its productivity has grown along with it. I've helped optimise the production of arable land by changing crop rotation cycles and fine tuning sowing and reaping times. I am loathed to take responsibility for the jump in crop yield. The herds of cattle on the Hoof have also been procreating faster and more steadily, and growing larger and healthier than before. I suspect that vanquishing the Tanar'ri has had a positive effect on Glister. And dare I say on the whole of the Thar.

I've been...reckless with my divinations, but I cannot say it's been without its rewards. If it wasn't for the current unrest in Glister I would spend much more time learning the secrets of the bloodstone, and the being that is banished inside of it.

Quentyn has made great strides in advancing himself as the Lord of Glister. He has also made great strides in advancing Glister as a trading hub along the Thar. Neighbouring fiefdoms have sent word, and a certain Lord Balta, the Western Warden of Vaasa even made the trek to Glister to make a personal appearance.

Occasionally there is word from Cormyr. A great horde of orcs has descended upon my homeland. I'm certain that the Cormyrian knights and war wizards are more than capable of defeating the horde -- it is not the first time they come reaving down from the mountains -- but I cannot help but be somewhat worried for my family. Danan especially. He should be of an age now that he'll have his own command, or leading some vanguard. I wonder if he's been anointed yet. I should write him again. Until I hear back, I shall pray to Chauntea to lend strength to him so he can defend home and hearth.

As a result of the trouble in Cormyr, and likely eager to send word back of his progress, Quentyn has send an open invitation for refugees to come and settle in Glister. His ambition is admirable. For a long while I thought that none would make the trek across all the way north to Glister. Even if you take a boat across the Sea of Fallen Stars and north into the Moonsea, like I did, the journey across the Thar from Thentia, Melvaunt or Hulburg will take weeks.

And yet, they came. A large host of sixty mercenaries, lead by a Cormyrian knight by the name of Ser Fosco. It was a ragtag band of Cormyrians, Sembians, and mongrels. Glister was ill-prepared. Quentyn was ill-prepared. I am not sure what he was expecting, but I was expecting people less armed with swords and more armed with ploughshares. They look less like settlers and more like raiders. But here they are, looking for a home.

The settlers -- yes, settlers, that's what they are and I will continue to call them that so that they, and the people from Glister, don't forget why they're there -- have settled in a large camp on the Newmark, just across the moat, in sight of the keep. It's been weeks now, and understandably they are getting restless. I don't know what is stopping them from settling properly. I guess my curiosity has gotten to the point where I will set aside my studies and venture forth. Perhaps I can help.

This day I woke up to the smell of food coming from the kitchen. When I came downstairs, I saw that Quentyn joined his two squires -- Godric and... and... Godric and the other one -- to break their fast. Mund had prepared what most people would consider a fine start of the day. Despite being here for a while, I still have trouble adjusting to the Glisterian choice of food. The Thar breeds hardier people than myself.

Luckily, I've been able to figure out what works for me. The friendly simpleton Gilbert and I have grown friendly, and he sells me eggs from his flock of ducks. Mund has started to prepare the eggs in the different ways. When I told him to be more conservative with the spices, his creations became a delight.

The amount of wine in the village is still at an abysmal level. It's rare. The villagers seem to enjoy their ales and meads more and so the merchants have given up bringing it on their voyages across the Thar. I've started to drinking some light ciders, which I'm learning how to digest. If I don't overdo it, the acidity of the apples doesn't upset my stomach. Perhaps I should see about getting Jago to bring some grapevines from his trips to Hulburg. Perhaps I can start growing my own. The climate isn't suited for it, but with Chauntea's blessing anything I create will be better than ale.

While I quietly ate my breakfast at the kitchen table I started to wonder what kind of knights these two squires would become? They seem brutish, boorish and devoid of the five chivalric virtues that a knight should imbue; valour, honour, compassion, generosity and wisdom. Perhaps I shouldn't judge them too harshly. Perhaps it's simply that they don't come across as any of these things. At the Circle of Magi I had to jump through some awful hoops in order not to be judged too harshly. I ended up showing everyone wrong. I hope Godric and... thinger will show me wrong.

With Quentyn not being a knight himself, or a priest; can he even anoint new knights?

Creighton arrived and joined to break his fast. He asked Quentyn if it was wise that Wulfric dictate the terms of the moot. Apparently, Wulfric had called for a moot. Apparently, the mercena*... no, the settlers had been causing some trouble. Skirmishes, intimidation and thievery had gone up and the settlers had been involved in all instances. Quentyn decided that as lord, he should be the one to call for a moot.

Brother David arrived wearing that ghastly chain of his and heartily attacked the breakfast larders. He had come to ask about the moot as well and he was also able to confirm that the settlers were the cause of much unrest on the Oldmark.

After breakfast brother David wanted to check my constitution. I could have saved him the effort and replied with "miserable," but he seemed quite insistent. My seizure has left him worried. When the checkup was concluded I was told I was relatively good health, which was good. I was told that I shouldn't neglect the hearth during my studies. I knew what that meant. Oftentimes I am so lost in thought or study that the hearth extinguishes and the bitter cold creeps into my bones.

We spoke briefly about the settlers and the moot. He wanted us to keep the mood of the moot calm and to prevent the villagers from antagonising the settlers. They are well armed and most of them seem seasoned combat veterans. They could take over the village if they wanted to.

We all met atop the keep to look at the camp of the settlers on the Newmark. We noticed the banner of Ser Fosco; a triangle of three black arrows on a field of green. His heraldry seemed sophisticated enough that he should likely be, or have been, a landed Cormyrian knight. I did not recognise his banner, but I resigned to find out what I could. Perhaps Lord Marbrand left some books on Cormyrian heraldry behind while searching for his heir. I could send Blackwing for Cormyr to inquire, but it would likely take two rides for her to return.

We all ended up walking up to the Hoof to find Wulfric. I was reminded that when we had first arrived in Glister, Wulfric's daughter Annika had been taken by gnolls. Quentyn, brother David and Jago saved her and Wulfric was very grateful. I wondered what had soured his mood towards Quentyn, and whether we'd have to remind him about the debt he owed them.

I felt embarrassed to find that Wulfric was actually quite hospitable and friendly. He offered us some cheese that his daughter had learned how to make, and essentially confirmed what we had already suspected. He wasn't happy with the way the settlers had been behaving.

His main gripe, besides the infractions, was that the settlers simply weren't contributing to the village. They were not producing, only consuming. Not pulling their weight. He also wanted to know where we would house them. And why they seemed so disinterested in clearing land, erecting houses and plowing fields.

Even with the added productivity of the fields and the herds, could we keep up that productivity under the strain of sixty extra mouths to feed? It was a very valid question, but not one I could answer without doing some mathematics first. I decided to talk to Creighton and get to the bottom of that conundrum. How much food is produced on how much arable land? To house, feed and cloth sixty people, how much extra land needs to be tilled, how much extra cattle will it take, how much extra game needs to be hunted and how much extra fish needs to be caught? Once we know that, we know what we'll need to provide in terms of land, tools, seed and cattle.

Jago and Widukin had joined us at Wulfric's the moment they heard we were on the Hoof. When we left, we decided to pay a visit to the settler's camp and Jago decided to join us. We crossed the palisade and took the ferry across the moat and walked up to the camp.

At the camp we were made to wait outside the camp. Under guard. Eventually it became insulting and Quentyn resolutely shouldered his way past the guards. He and I don't have much in common, and in that moment I was jealous of his ability to command respect simply by imposing his physique and stature. It probably doesn't hurt that brother David, who is an imposing man himself, was standing to his side wearing that ugly chain and that magical cloak of furs.

Ser Fosco turned out to be a tough nut to crack. There was some back and forth between the knight and Quentyn and it became... tense. It certainly felt as if Ser Fosco was trying to squeeze every bit out of the leverage he had, even if that leverage was gained through intimidation. It became quite clear that Ser Fosco wanted to be a landed knight yet again and I wondered how realistic it was to introduce feudalism to Glister.

A deal was struck; Ser Fosco would keep his settlers in line, Quentyn would come up with a plan and present it at the moot in two days. Quentyn would bring three people, as would Ser Fosco. Quentyn decided to depart, but brother David asked Ser Fosco's permission to walk the camp and tend to the needs of the settlers. He granted permission, though I felt that permission wasn't his to grant. The Newmark was as much a part of Glister as the Oldmark, despite being outside the palisade.

While walking the camp with brother David we both came to the conclusion that most of the people in the camp came to Glister to earnestly accept Quentyn's invitation. Brother David could detect some bad apples in the batch, but most of the Cormyrians really were fleeing the war in our homeland looking for a better life.

We met a priest of Tempus by the name of Gunnar, a wintered soldier. He was open and amicable, and his voice betrayed his Damaran heritage. He wasn't sure whether he would stay. This made sense to me and confirmed to me that we had gotten the right of it; the majority of the people here came with good intentions. If they would stay and settle, Gunnar would move on to find the next battle, to find another war to serve his Lord.

When we were done we returned to Ser Fosco's tent. Brother David had asked me to distract Ser Fosco a bit so that he could say a prayer. So I asked Ser Fosco where he was from and how he came to leave. His tale was a tragic one, of a small house of some nobility, losing more and more power when the orc horde came, until all that was left was a title. It seemed Ser Fosco was here to reclaim some of the prestige he lost in the war.

On the way back to the Oldmark, brother David told me that he had divined that Ser Fosco had a deeply selfish core and I was once again reminded of the conversation I had with Quentyn and the two squires; was Ser Fosco an exemplary knight? Did he embody the five chivalric virtues of knighthood?

When we returned to the keep, we talked to Quentyn about what we had found at the camp, and the conclusions that we had drawn. I suggested that we'd refer to the land to be designated as "The Gift." It would help us in our conversations, and convey the spirit in which we were entering these negotiations. It also sounded good.

Before bed, I talked to Creighton and came up with a plan to do the mathematics about what Glister currently produced in terms of crops, cattle, fishing and game. We would need to come up with several models in which we distributed the sixty new hands in such a way as to optimally create enough goods to support the visitors and yield the most to Glister.