Tag: Emma

Emma, Session 3

2nd day of the 3rd ride, month 6 , 1262

I am dying.

My survival is far from certain and this has led me to doubt my actions. After the dream at the Sacred Baths of Sedna I followed the right course of actions to ascertain the signs in my dream. I have successfully identified each individual part of the vision but am still uncertain about the meaning of the message.

Was I warned to avoid the horrors in the darkness, or was I supposed to find them and face them?

I chose the latter and find myself dying of a disease. It promises a bleak end indeed, since my bodily remains will be given to the Flame upon my demise.

I have spent my life with a healthy dose of fear for the Sea and the Lord of the Deep, knowing … no, trusting, that I would be welcomed in his halls after a life of service to the Mother of Streams. Now it seems that even this fate might be denied to me. That this might happen in the summer I find to be an even crueler irony.

Is this punishment for mistaking the meaning of the dream? If so, it seems unseasonably cruel.

But let us pick up where we left off.

We were in the room where we faced the White Gnome and its minions. After our victory we discussed how to proceed. It was decided to retire to the burrowed tunnel from which we entered into these vaulted tunnels. We agreed that it was too dangerous to linger or to press on.
We reasoned that we had done enough to fulfill the terms of our agreement. I suggested that we bring back one of our gnomish attackers as evidence. Upon James’ further suggestion, Astrid severed one of their heads to take with.
I was almost certain that we could expect an ambush on the return trip, a concern I did not voice aloud, unwilling to cause undue concern. Unfortunately I was to be proven right.

The two elves of our company took the front and the rear and we methodically made our retreat. All went well until we all noticed clanging noises coming from somewhere deeper inside the vaulted tunnels.
James was immediately eager to investigate. I was less enthusiastic about the idea, but found that an argument would not help our desperate situation so I stayed my tongue. After a short discussion the elves departed, leaving the humans with their single lantern to make their way back to the tunnel on their own. Thank Sedna I had placed the markers!

It was very difficult not to liken the departure of our elven companions to the betrayal of Elvenkind to Humankind in their hour of need.

Luca was entirely confident in his own recollections and did not pay attention to the markers at all. I did, and found that at some point the markers were gone. Luca scoffed at the possibility of being mistaken and we persisted on our path.

We walked right into a trap.

Three of the gnomish miscreants appeared from the darkness and started wailing at me with their crude weapons. After one feeble attempt to strike at them I cowered behind my shield while Astrid tore our attackers to shreds.
I was savagely cut and am now dying from a disease inflicted by one of their blades.

I then convinced Luca that we were on the wrong path and we tracked back until we found the markers again. A little later we discovered the truth: the gnomes had employed some kind of illusory magic to obscure the markings and so waylay us. We recovered the right path and successfully found the burrowed tunnel.

The ambush could have been much more disastrous had there been more gnomes lurking in the darkness. I later found out that this was not a stroke of luck, but related to the clanging noises we had discerned earlier on.
I later learned that these noises had come from a fight between five well equipped Lyrian knights and a host of these gnomish rats. The knights prevailed, and our elven compatriots had conversed with them. They warned of a terrible disease and they explained that they had come from the De Courtenay estate nearby. Their leader was Armand de Courtenay, a Paladin of the Platinum Lord, and they were seeking the source of the disease.
Surely the struggle with the knights distracted the majority of the gnomes and secured our survival in the ambush, as well as preventing harm to our elven compatriots in their recklessness. But in fairness, them encountering the knights has been useful.

Upon returning to the tunnel we were immediately ridiculed by the arrogant one. He seemed to take pleasure in the fact that we were waylaid by monsters and nearly slain. I confirmed that we had indeed been tricked by magic of the gnomish rats. He also complained that he had wasted so much time looking for us.
My happiness at recovering our way out was severely dampened by all of this. Luca appeared mostly angry.

Emrys had apparently summoned reinforcements from the estate. Much to the relief of the house guards we decided to retire back to the surface, bringing with one severed gnomish head, and the slain guardsman in the tunnel. The one in the aqueduct had been set on fire by Emrys.

On the surface things started to get a bit blurry for me. We first spoke with Captain Mollen, after which we ate and rested a little. I inspected my wounds and found that I was quite likely mortally wounded.
I failed at proper etiquette when we visited the Lords of Sheridan for our debriefing, but they were kind enough to forgive my transgression. I have missed much of what was discussed but I seem to understand that we are meant to go down into the accursed tunnels again tomorrow.
When they started staring at me as to whether or not I would come with I could only blurt out that I required healing and that I might be corrupted by an affliction.

Upon that dismal note we retired to our resting places. I was offered a corner in the stables, where Benten the Purple visited me in person. He examined my wound and said that he was unable to heal it. He did provide me with an amulet that should stop the affliction from gaining in strength. He explained that the surest way to recovery would be at the Cathedral of the Platinum Lord, but that the closest servant of the Platinum Lord could be found in the tunnels from which we had just returned.

I should have asked him what the masks in the mansion mean.

So now I face the same question I faced yesterday. Do I avoid the darkness and its horrors, or do I go towards them?

In my current weakness and despair I am inclined to go back to Kingsport.

But what if it is part of the test? Should I persist?

Will my servitude to Water end in Flames?

I need to sleep …

Emma, Session 2

2nd day of the 3rd ride, month 6 , 1262

We are standing at the edge of a large pool at the entrance to the aqueduct that used to feed it, but is now run dry. Behind us, on the pool, the light of summer dances playfully on the water. In front of us beckons a dark, dry, but mostly dark tunnel. I have just finished drying out my belongings and refitting my attire. I suggest we look for tracks in the tunnel, but it is self-evident that there is only one way to go, and that is up the aqueduct.

My compatriots proceed into the darkness soaked to the skin.

The darkness dulls my senses and I become anxious. I am left with only one thing to do, and that is keeping upright and not fall over in this tunnel with the sparing light from the two lanterns we brought.
James has taken point and proves himself impatient and arrogant: in other words a city-dweller. His sharp tongue takes no care to hide his impatience and to offer blistering critiques of the others. He gives me the impression that we are but an unwelcome hindrance in his path towards a pile of Golden Crowns. This, together with the overwhelming darkness makes the mood quickly grow oppressive and tense.

I fear this one’s sharp tongue will suppress the best in us.

After an hour of struggling we come upon a human body. Clearly a member of the Sheridan House Guard. His neck and face is purple and swollen, and pus-filled lesions occur near his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. But the man is alive!
A tense discussion follows and we realize that the man is likely carrying a terrible disease and is beyond saving. Astrid suggests a mercy killing and burning the remains. Reluctantly we all agree and Luca suggests we burn the remains immediately. Given that we are in a confined space an immediate cremation is impractical and under Luca’s protests we must wait with the cremation until we return. James by this time has already lost his patience and has disappeared into the shadows ahead.
Astrid looks to me as someone with some moral authority to assist those departing the realm of the living. I take the long sharp knife in her hand and kneel over the dying man. After muttering a prayer beseeching Sedna to show mercy on the soul of this man I carefully plunge the blade into the man’s chest and heart.
The blood turns out to be much more viscous than it ought to be. Deeply revolted by the deed I just committed and the horror of the scene in general, I recoil. To complete the absurdity of this horror I notice a morbidly fascinated Luca crouching over the corpse to collect some of the viscous blood. He is assisted by James who emerged from the shadows to provide a flask for the purpose. Evidently having discarded a good amount of precious oil for our lanterns.
I return the blade to Astrid, visibly shaken, and exclaim that I will not make the fire. Astrid places the corpse on the ledge next to the main channel of the aqueduct to await our return.

We proceed. After another quarter or a third of an hour we come to a collapse behind which there is running water. It seems as though something tunneled, or burrowed into the aqueduct from the side and that the water is now diverted into that tunnel instead.
Here we find numerous stone-working tools that evidently belonged to the dwarven engineers. I collect the tools and place them on the ledge. These include three earthenware jars with waxen seals. Luca and Astrid open one to find a substance reeking of rotten eggs inside. They close the jar and leave it with the rest of the tools.
We decide that we must climb over the collapse and enter the new tunnel. I use some of the dwarven tools to affix a rope to the top of the collapse, so that we might more easily climb up or down on either side. I also take a chisel and a hammer so as to be able to carve markings on walls, should we need to.

Over the collapse I can wade in a small amount of the cleanest running water. My heart rejoices in greeting the Mother of Springs and Protectress of Wells.

James once again impatiently takes the lead as we plunge into the dark unknown. After another quarter or a third of an hour we come upon another body: another house-guard. This one was clearly dead, judging by the multitude of entry-wounds, lacerations and bite-marks. The bite-marks, Luca suggested, appear to come from unnaturally large rodents.
When we continue I have my shield readied and my mace close at hand. Will we run into red-eyed horrors soon?

Some time later we come to the end of the new tunnel. It was begun from yet another tunnel, but one that comprises impressive ancient, vaulted masonry. Covered by strands of bioluminescent moss. I have come to my dreamscape at last. It occurs to me now, that it is not unlike the Sacred Baths of Sedna in Kingsport, albeit without the marble and stucco facings. Is there a whole world of darkness hidden under our very feet?

James suggests we have done enough and that we might as well return. Despite his continual posturing and dismissive behavior towards us it seems that he too is scared. And he too knows that Lord Jonathan will hardly be impressed by what we have achieved so far. Ultimately, he tries to reclaim dominance be conceding to agree to continue for half a day onwards. How he will measure this in this forsaken darkness is a mystery to me.

Should we go left or right? Emrys, who had been remarkable quiet throughout the entire endeavor so far decides by flipping a coin. Left it is. Luca insists that, from now on, we will keep going left whenever we can. Supposedly that is the most intelligent way to approach a ‘labyrinth’.

We press on, and quickly I lose track of our path and direction. Although I mark every corner we take with an arrow that I chisel into the wall. James has taken point again and has disappeared from sight.

After a while James reappears to warn us that if we take another left, we will miss something that is making sound ahead. It sounded like rodents. We went there instead.
We come upon another body, evidently a dwarf, covered by a swarm of rats, which are gnawing on the remains. We carefully approach when the rats turn on us and try to overwhelm us.
Emrys sets off a dazzling display of light that appears to startle a great many of the rats. We start picking off the rats one by one, but we will undoubtedly be overwhelmed when they recover from the lights. So I use my gifts to mimic the baying of hounds, hoping to scare off the critters, but to no avail. Emrys, shows quickness of mind and assists my effort by producing an illusory image of a large hound. Our combined efforts halts the swarm in its tracks.
Meanwhile, James had thrown a good deal of oil in the midst of the swarm of rats and used their moment of hesitation to throw one of the lanterns so as to ignite the pool of oil.
While many of their kin writhe in agony from being on fire, the remainder of the swarm scurries away. James complains that we have now forewarned all of our presence in this forsaken place. I am distressed to have even less light available from now on, and that we might run out of oil before our return. I voice not these concerns, since I feel that James’ arrogance is quite enough strain on our collective morale.

Death by fire is unusually cruel.

We inspect the body of the dwarf. His hands are bound behind his back and there are no clear signs of the way he perished, other than being gnawed on by rats. Could he have been left to be killed by rodents?

After a short while we were alerted by soft sounds further ahead. Possibly the scuffling off feet. James asked if Emrys would like to take the rear. When Emrys hesitated, James eagerly positioned himself in our rear, while he sarcastically urged ‘someone with heavy armor and a shield’ to take point.
Given the visceral logic of James’ taunting suggestion I was left little choice but to take point. My refusal would have broken the group’s teetering cohesion, a cohesion which James had so carefully been picking down to a thread.

I know now how a heifer must feel when it is led to the slaughter. There was darkness and dread in the eyes, there was the hint of death and decay on the nostrils. I could feel my heart thumping so loudly, I swear by Sedna the others must have heard it!
I inched forward hesitantly and clumsily seeing next to nothing in the darkness that lay ahead. All I could do is to take comfort in the proximity of the tall and powerful Astrid by my side.

Up until that point we had been following vaulted tunnels, but we now opened into a much wider room, with, as far as I could discern, endless pairs of columns, at an equal width to the tunnels, stretching onwards. In between the first set of columns were positioned a handful of small rat-like creatures, including a taller white one. These were the red-eyed horrors from my dreamscape. What by Sedna were they? Kobolds? Goblins? Gnomes? At any rate, they were here to kill us, judging by the jagged knives and swords readied in their hands.

I was stunned by the sudden revelation, but Astrid showed no hesitation: she charged headlong into our opponents and skewered one on her spear. Emrys meanwhile produced an illusory image of a House Guard in front of our adversaries, convincing enough to distract two of them. The white one, evidently their leader, dismissed it easily with a wave of its scythe.
James fired arrows from behind but to little effect. Our enemies bore down on Astrid and were sure to cut her to shreds unless we would intercede.
All I managed was to make use of my talents in the most feeble way.

Then I assumed that taking out their leader would likely dissuade these foul gnomes from further battle, so I beseeched Lady Sedna to mark the leader for death and I struck it with a Guiding Bolt. It recoiled and became illuminated in eerie green light, which assisted James in finding his mark with a satisfying thud.
Meanwhile, Emrys had used another display of light to confound two of the gnomes. Astrid had gone in to some sort of primordial rage and slew yet another of the little monsters.

All the while Luca had been throwing dark bolts of raw power from the tip of his staff that made our enemies writhe in pain and agony, and could snap their joints or spines with a sickening snap.
If magic is like a dog and takes after its master, then this one might well house a depraved soul indeed.

The efforts of mine and James proved effective: their leader cowered and withdrew. Although I seem to have caught a complaint by James that it had escaped, I was more than happy to see the back of the foul gnome. I had advanced forward to assist Astrid and Emrys, and found that Emrys made use of the opportunity to withdraw, letting the remaining gnomes bear down on me. They cut me terribly, after which, I won’t lie, I cowered behind my shield. Astrid slew yet one more while the last one scurried off into the shadows.

We survived!

I quickly turned to Astrid and poured water on her many wounds, uttering prayers to Sedna. Although she had to restrain herself in her rage, she allowed me to proceed. Her wounds healed before our eyes, with steam coming from the erstwhile shredded skin.

Emma, Session 1

1st day of the 3rd ride, month 6 , 1262

I have been staying at the Baths of Sedna in Kingsport awaiting a sign from Sedna. The baths are quite luxurious and well-kept by a lay devotee of Sedna: Mistress Dagmer. She is a kind woman and her services do much to improve the health and lives of her patrons. She serves the Spring-mother well without the burden of her ‘gifts’. She is clearly more than a little envious of my gifts and my connection to our mutual patron. She would not understand that I could be similarly envious of her. All the same, I serve my Mistress gladly and by no means is my service superior to Dagmer’s.

I must have dozed off into a trance while bathing for I was granted a vision. In the vision I entered into a cavern, lit only by the faint light of luminescent moss. One corridor branching off from this cavern appeared to be much darker and to be emanating dread. Upon entering the corridor, the darkness fully engulfed me and the dread became almost palpable. First one pair of glowing red eyes appeared, then more pairs of glowing red eyes appeared, staring with an animal hunger. Then they pounce.
I never did see the creatures, since the image was replaced by two stills, following in succession. The first a banner depicting a mask with a bright sword behind, the second a minstrel with a knapsack.
The sequence of the cave I interpret as a warning. But do I need to face this challenge, or do I need to avoid it? The first still image mystifies me, but the second one is familiar: the sign of the ‘Careless Wanderer’, the famous Inn on Quayhill. It is reputed that any adventurer worth his or her salt will ultimately find his or her way to The Careless Wanderer, as sure as water rolls downhill. Sedna clearly wants me to go there today. Dagmer helped me get ready and I departed for The Careless Wanderer.

I will not lie, I was anxious upon entering the Careless Wanderer, half expecting it to become a black corridor filled with red-eyed horrors. Luckily, the place proved much more benign than that.
That being said, at the bar a man with an unnerving talent at annoyance was bickering with the moon-elf barmaid. A cluster of boisterous louts was playing dice on one end of the common room. At the center of attention appeared to be a remarkably tall man with slightly reddish hair.
The annoying man prevented me from concentrating properly and to get a good sense of what was going on exactly.

After the annoying man ceased accosting the barmaid I made my way over to her and asked her how she was doing. Slightly taken aback by this sudden act of kindness, Lauryn and I engaged in pleasant small-talk. After a while I inquired about the tall man and she informed me that it was Lord Marcus Sheridan who appeared to be recruiting men and women for an unknown job that was to pay 20 Golden Crowns. Apparently one had to defeat the Lord at a game of chance called Daemon-dice to be considered for the job. He seemed to put his fate in the hands of Lady Luck, who is his patron. At the same time, he was using the game to get a measure of his potential applicants.

I reckoned that I had come here for a reason so I was required to try. I refused to wager coin, playing for honor instead. I surrendered to Lady Luck for the occasion to determine whether or not I was fated to join Lord Markus’ endeavor, whatever it might be. As it turned out, Lady Luck saw no reason to bring me on board.

I spent much of the afternoon at the Careless Wanderer, having an early diner (chowder). When I started eating the dwarf Durham of the Wanderer suggested a fine wine (Erveluce) and I engaged him in pleasant conversation. Ultimately I enquired what he knew about House Sheridan and he revealed that the Sheridans were a wealthy merchant-family that were raised into nobility fairly recently. They were the heroes of the Battle of the Lyrian Gulf in 1217, during which their private vessels provided crucial assistance in destroying the pirate fleet of Admiral Dapperfang which threatened all of the Lyrian coast. In particular, it seemed that the mage known as Benton the Purple, a personal friend of the Sheridans, provided the deadliest assistance.
House Sheridan’s Sigil, Durham revealed, is a mask with bright blade behind it. The House is represented by three brothers: Johnathan, Marcus and a middle brother whose name seems to escape everyone. John appears to represent the more serious business side of the family, while Marcus is known to be a more adventurous type.

Having learnt the sigil, it became clear that I was supposed to take the job this Lord Marcus was offering. I had no choice but to sit down for another round of the confounded dice-game. This time I put my faith in Sedna and informed Lord Marcus that I would take the job regardless of the outcome, but that if I were to lose at the dice, I would accept no payment. The wager pleasantly surprised Lord Marcus and he agreed to the terms. His rolls produced five consecutive values, which I gathered to be an impressive feat. My rolls produced four of the same value and a spare, which I learned to be a better score. I won. After my victory Lord Marcus declared himself satisfied and ceased the game and pushed the gaming pieces aside. I pocketed one of the winning dice as a memento.

After all the excitement Lord Marcus ordered a sumptuous meal and asked four of the winning individuals to join him. These included, aside from myself, a tall northern woman from the Bay of Seals called Astrid. She has an impressively powerful physique and wears some kind of blue face-paint. She appears to be a sailor and is not very talkative. But when she speaks it is direct, to the point, and best heeded. She seems to spend words like Golden Crowns, sparingly but with purpose. I am glad this one is with us.
Another one, named Luca, appears to be a somewhat weedy and unhealthy looking man from Northshire. He appears to be the scholarly type, perhaps from the Academy, or rather a wash-out by the looks of it. He appears curious but impatient with others. This one will probably need watching over, if only to protect him from himself.
The fourth one is called James and is a native of Kingsport and cares for his appearance. He is clad in fine leathers and displays a variety of sharp looking knives and daggers. He appears to be going for a dangerous look, which for all I know he may well be. Or perhaps he is just compensating for his small and wiry frame. His features may well be due to his mixed elven heritage.  His tongue is well-trained and eager to throw barbs, perhaps venomous ones as well. Or perhaps he was simply too deep into the cups Lord Marcus was so generously providing. This one might well need watching.

During the meal Lord Marcus filled us in on the job. We were to report to the Sheridan Estate at Lynnecombe-upon-Lyn (a few leagues outside of Kingsport) at noon tomorrow to investigate a well. The well is no longer being replenished by the aqueduct that feeds it. A team of dwarven engineers sent to investigate has gone  missing, as well as a troop of house guards that were sent to look for the engineers. We are to go down there as the third team and resolve whatever is wrong down the well. It sounds a lot more straightforward than it probably will be, especially if the dream of darkness is any way linked to these subterranean features of the Sheridan Estate.
Lord Marcus related that there were no unsettling discoveries downstream from the stream that feeds the aqueduct. Nor are there indications that the water of the well or the stream are in any way corrupted.
We agreed upon meeting two hours after dawn at the Careless Wanderer after which we would take a river-barge upstream to Lynnecombe-upon-Lyn. Astrid would arrange for the barge.
Since Lord Marcus was leaving, and I was content that I had fulfilled my duties to Sedna faithfully I bid the others goodnight and retired to the Baths of Sedna. Where I informed Mistress Dagmer of my departure.

I donated a Golden Crown when she wasn’t looking.

2nd day, 3rd ride, month 6, 1262

The next day I enjoyed one last fine bath before setting out. I had a simple breakfast at the Careless Wanderer with my new companions. These included a remarkably upbeat and handsome young half-elf called Emrys. This one appears to need attention as much as regular people need water to live. He claims to be sorcerer and a trickster. He looks as though he had sprung from the sign of the Careless Wanderer. I forgot to see if the image remained.

Sedna has allowed me to drift into the orbit if some remarkable people indeed.

After breakfast Astrid and I went down to the pier to meet our boatman: Aram. He and his two children own and operate a simple barge that will service us well enough. Naturally I offered my services while a guest on their barge. Aram was quite happy to take me along, as I have come to expect.
Astrid and I made ourselves useful on the boat wherever we might during the voyage. Luca used the time to read in one of his books. James spent his time in leisure, possibly sleeping off the cups. Emrys seemed to enjoy the voyage as a carefree child would. We arrived at the hamlet Lynnecombe-upon-Lyn with time to spare.

After bidding farewell to Aram and his children we walked up to the Sheridan Estate. Despite the size of the estate, it is remarkably well concealed in the wilderness that surrounds it. Eventually we came upon a simple gate through the outer wall and entered into a well-kept and luxurious garden courtyard. We easily spotted Captain Hallis Mollen to whom we were supposed to report. She greeted us in a businesslike tone and told us to wait to be called in to meet the Lords. I made use of the time to subject the well to a preliminary investigation, but found nothing suspicious. I also engaged a gardener in conversation. I found out that the water was being rationed somewhat but that the quality of the water was perfectly fine.

When we were called in we were led through a labyrinth of luxurious rooms and corridors up to a study. I noticed a large stain glass  window as we went up a flight of stairs. It depicted the running through of a woman by a sword. A similar image was depicted on a painting in the study where we were meeting Lord Marcus and his brother John. Intrigued I inspected the painting and found that is was named ‘Hagsbane’. The woman being run through on the painting was of a monstrous sort, so quite likely a hag, while the shining blade running her through was her bane.

In the study we were awaited by Lord Marcus and his brother John. On the balcony outside, overlooking the gardened courtyard, was another man in a wheeled chair, flanked by a white haired man in purple robes. All of them are remarkably tall.
Lord John was curt and direct and from his tone it was clear that this one is used to being listened to and obeyed. He reiterated what was expected of us and told us that there was no reason for delay. We inquired if Captain Mn would be available to us for any required supplies, which she would be. I noticed a sword on the wall behind Lord John and politely inquired if that was in fact Hagsbane, which he confirmed. Not eager to overstay our welcome we retired to the courtyard to start our mission.

In the courtyard, while the others bothered with the supplies, I sought to speak with Luca. I inquired what he knew about the mask symbol that appeared so regularly throughout the mansion. He was also unfamiliar with it. I told him that I suspect that the bright blade in the Sheridan Sigil is in fact Hagsbane. He was not eager to continue our conversation, since the Lords might well be able to overhear our discussion.

When all preparations were made we descended into the depths of the well. Luca, Emrys, and James were lowered in a bucket connected to a boom. I tried to climb down a rope. Sedna mocked my small vanity and I fell into her embrace much sooner than I intended.
I collected my things and made my way to the entrance of the aqueduct with the others. There I stripped out of my wet clothes and used Sedna’s gifts to dry them out, then I refitted my adventuring attire so as to be ready to proceed with our mission and cleanse this well.