Tag: Recap

Running Errands, Making Friends and Gaining Information in Kingsport

Previously, the adventurers returned to Kingsport and spent the night at the Careless Wanderer where they spoke with other travellers and gained some sense of what’s going on the kingdom. The next day they ran some errands in preparation for their departure to Bournemouth and discovered that the rubies they retrieved from the catacombs underneath Lynnecombe were in fact highly unusual crystals. When paying a visit to the Sacred Baths, Emma was informed that a noble house wanted to have a well on their new property in Kingsport blessed, and it turned out to be a ruse by the Queen Isabella Valois of Lyria, who wanted the priestess to bless the watergardens behind the royal palace. Emma made a powerful friend, Emrys met an influential lover, and Luca met a mysterious abjurer.

Seventh Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

After the visit to the royal watergardens the adventurers were once again dropped off at the Sacred Baths. Emma decided to stay there to reflect on the afternoon while Emrys and Luca decided to pay a visit to the College of Bards in Sevenoaks. Astrid was bored so she decided to join them.

Making their way across the Knightsbirde into the Northside ward they were surprised to bump into James on the corner of Tiverton street right in front of the Silver Cross tavern. Shocked at his reappearance, the four of them popped into the tavern for a drink and a discussion. It seemed that James was quite familiar with the place, which Emrys soon discovered, by the subtle way men and women came up to proposition Astrid, to be a brothel.

James explained that the night he disappeared he had gotten up and sneaked into the Sheridan library to snoop around. He doesn’t quite remember what happened, but he knows that something happened to him in the library. He doesn’t know how he came to be in the catacombs, nor does he remember how he got a strange burn mark on the inside of his right hand, spanning both the palm of his hand as well as several fingers. The others said that they had not noticed the mark on his hand when they found James in the catacombs, even though they examined him for injuries.

Luca examined the arcane mark on James’ hand and concluded that there was both an element of abjuration as well as necromancy involved in the magic which created the mark. James indicated that it was his intention to join the others in finding Lord Destan and he seemed eager to help gather information.

It was decided upon James’ suggestion to find the Sheridan representative in Kingsport who managed their mercantile enterprises might have talked to Lord Destan when he was on his way to Bournemouth. They found the harbour master and James bribed one of the assistants to direct him to the Sheridan representative who kept a small office on the docks near The Salt.

The man they found in the office, together with a handful of clerks and associates, was Caius of Lynnecombe, a neat and soberly dressed gentleman of middle years. He told the group that Lord Destan had come through the port with three guards on the day of the Greengrass festival and had departed at the end of the day on the Squall-Eater a ship that regularly sailed between the capital and Bournemouth.

An idea was formed that Lord Destan may have stopped by the Library of Ioun in the Ravensbourne ward. It was a part of the Bromley estate and run by Lord Caedmon, the head of House Bromley himself. The adventurers decided to pay the library a visit. They made their way north from the Docks, across the Lynbridge, across Steward square, and down the Elysian street to Ravensbourne. They passed the Daerlan Embassy and found the entrance to the library where they were confronted with a care-taker who had no interest in allowing them access to the library. He referred them to the Bromley manor, which was close by.

Once there, they noticed that the Ravensbourne district had a lot of patrolling crownsguard, which meant they had to result to subtle intimidation of the Bromley house guard to allow them to speak to the majordomo of the house hold. Luca was allowed onto the estate grounds and spoke to Hendrik of Grimsdown, the majordomo, who could inform him that Lord Destan had not called to visit in quite a few months. Another dead end.

The next stop was going to be the College of Bards where Emrys had a friend, Lord Andrew of House Selkirk, who was attending. It was Emrys’ hope that he could find out more about the Crimson Tower and its history and any other information relevant to their quest of finding Lord Destan. The adventurers made their way down North Street, towards the North Gate. Right before the gate, they turned left along the ramparts and quickly found the entrance to an amphitheatre that served as the college’s stage and, when not in use for performances, a place for students to sit, write, practice and debate.

After having spoken to a small group of people and aided one of the students in improving the poem she had been working on, Emrys was reunited with his friend Andrew who seemed equally jovial, frivolous and flamboyant as the sorcerer. Andrew admitted he had no knowledge that could aid them, but quickly got Emrys in touch with a slender, sullen looking man in dark clothing. He preferred the shade over the punishing afternoon sun and spoke in a thick Beauclair accent but was able to give Emrys some background information on the legend of the Crimson Tower.

By this point Luca, James and Astrid had departed. Luca went to find a bookshop while James had some personal errands to run. Astrid decided to go back to the Careless Wanderer.

The sullen Beauclair man told Emrys that the reason why the tale of the Crimson Tower was not well known in bard circles is because there was not hero, no positive outcome, no catharsis and no moral of the story that people could draw inspiration from. It was bleak, defeatist and ultimately a very tragic tale.

What Emrys did learn was that the member of the Silver Crusade which had betrayed the knights and lured them into defeat was a member of the Senhadrim, the mysterious council of scholars, mages, priests and elders who fought struggled side by side with the knights and against the fiends. He also learned that the devil prince who had orchestrated it all was called Mammon.

Before Emrys departed to make his way towards the Careless Wanderer, the sullen Beauclais was Adrien de Rouleau, better known as Le Papillon, the headmaster of the college.

Meanwhile, Luca had found a small bookstore called Adria’s Novel Idea, which was filled with stacks of books. It was run by an elderly gentleman by the name of Calford who had to disappoint Luca, who was looking for a small fortune in exquisite paper and ink which he wanted to use in his magecraft. They spoke a while and Luca decided to come back another day to go through Calford’s collection of books.

The Royal Ruse

Previously, the adventurers had tried to distract the Sheridan estate from the Kaedwyni orcs’ escape from the stables by performing a religious ceremony honouring Bartosz, performed by Emma. This allowed the orcs to break out of the stables and get a significant head start before getting discovered by one of the hounds and the guards going in pursuit.

This lead to a standoff on the road to Lynnecombe, atop a bridge crossing high above a Lyn tributary. Things moved really fast after Captain Mollen ordered the orcs to throw down their arms, which the orcs, especially Garr, refused to do. Bartosz, Dame Julie and Dame Madeline had manoeuvred themselves between the guards and the orcs. Luca used his magic to scare Mollen and one of the guards, the other guards reacted by letting their bolts fly towards the orcs, but struck Bartosz instead. The orcs jumped from the bridge into the river below.

Sixth Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

(Silvermoon is waning, Bloodmoon is waning. Darkmoon is in high sanction.)

After having received the coin, the cart and the two horses that were promised them – one a Lyrian chestnut mare, the other a Silesian palomino mare – the adventurers headed south towards Kingsport. After two hours, late into the evening, the city came into view. Lady Commander Miranda Ravensbourne, commander of the city’s crownsguard, was seen soaring high above the city on her griffon, Frostfeather. The adventurers made it into the city before the gates were closed for the night, and headed for the Careless Wanderer.

Upon arrival, Wojciech, the Silesian stable master took care of the two horses for five pennies per horse, but said the cart would have to remain outside, since the space in the stables was limited. He said that Ramsey, the cook, would probably still be able to rustle up some food, and that Durham could provide them with drinks. He recommended trying the fruit liquor that he and Durham had been experimenting with in the basement.

Inside the evening was at its peak with most people already deep in their cups. Lauryn arranged the lodgings – the common room for both Emma and Astrid, a simple private room for Luca and a luxury room overlooking the House of the Raven Queen for Emrys. Ramsey got some of the last scratchings from the kitchen, Durham got everyone a fruit liquor and Emma purchased a bottle of Erveluce, the expensive wine that Durham had introduced her to several days before.

Emrys decided to regale the remaining visitors at the Careless Wanderer with music and a tale of the mysterious catacombs underneath Lynnecombe. He made sure to include the Skaven and the Lyrian Knights, but not make mention of the Kaedwyni orcs. In the meantime Emma was observing the reaction of the crowd, noticing that the name of Ser Arman drew some boos, while Dame Julie’s name caused a cheer to erupt in the room.

Luca decided to join a group of veteran travellers at their table with some drinks, thinking he could strike up a conversation after hearing some of the rumours that they were discussing. The leader of the group introduced himself as Arnout Coehoorn, a merchant. He introduced his right hand man, Steffen Skaggs. The rest he didn’t bother to introduce, leading Luca to conclude that they were either help or guards. Luca adapted his accent to fit that of a Lyrian from the Elder Foothills, since that was part of the rumour that he had overheard them talking about.

The different rumours that came to the adventurers’ attention:

  • House Radowan and its banners moved to stand in open rebellion to the crown, withholding its dues and refusing to levy taxes from their people until the crown commited aid to protecting the kingdom’s eastern border from the encroaching threat of the savage races coming from Silesia. The house was supported by the houses from the Mazurian Hills, the Elder Foothills and by House Courtenay. It was fiercely opposed by the Ashenvale and Westershire houses, most prominently by House Grey.
  • Strange bipedal rat creatures had been spotted near ruins throughout the kingdom. Near Eastray, in the Mazurian Hills, south of Fulcaster, north-east of Woodbury and especially in the Elder Foothills.
  • The Plains of Strife continued to see skirmishes between the Lyrian troops and invaders believed to come from Daerlan. The expansionist empire denied that the invaders were their troops or were there on the orders of the empire. House Grey, ever the patriots, committed more forces, as did House Ravensbourne, Bromley, Lockwood and Blackwell.

Eventually, the adventurers decided to call it an evening and make their way to their respective quarters for some much deserved rest.

Seventh Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

The following morning the adventurers gathered for a simple breakfast and decided to run some errands. Emma wanted to invest some of the platinum pieces that they were given by House Sheridan to fashion rings which would allow her to ward the wearers of the rings through the power of her goddess. Emrys saw it as a good opportunity to look for a scabbard befitting for a sword like Toruviel. Emrys also wanted to drop by the College of Bards to visit a friend. After learning that the College of Bards might have some historians that Luca could speak to, he was also interested in coming along.

It was decided that the adventurers would stay in Kingsport for one extra day and leave early the following morning. Just as they were about to depart, Magda, the blind lady who owned the Careless Wanderer approached Emma and informed her that Dagmær of Hammerstrand, the devotee of Sedna who runs the Sacred Baths had left a message at the inn that her presence was requested at the Sacred Baths. The adventurers decided that their first stop would be the Southside Ward to see about the rings, scabbard, and while they were there, to see about appraising the rubies they had found in the catacombs.

The Southside market square was bustling filled with the little stalls of the different crafters that made the Southside ward their home.

Emma found Dervan, a young, apprenticing goldsmith who had completed his technical training and was now being taught how to deal with customers. He would be able to take the platinum pieces she was offering, melt them down and fashion four rings from them, simple and adorned only with a small pattern of water droplets. He could prepare the ring within the hour, and if she was happy with the quality of his work, could finish the rest of the rings by the end of the day.

Meanwhile, Emrys had found the stall of Lyandra Wildrunner, an elven leatherworker who was fascinated by the blade that Emrys showed her. Her enthusiasm lead to a crowd forming around the sorcerer and soon it caught the attention of a barrel-chested dwarf who seemed to command must respect in the market square. His name was Dagran Forgewright, and the crowd parted before him as he made his way over. A young orc walked in his wake, which startled the adventurers, but didn’t seem to startle anyone else on the square. Dagran asked to take a look at the blade and gave his nod of approval and departed, taking the orc with him. Lyandra ended up showing Emrys several beautiful scabbards and he chose a finely crafted leather scabbard and requested there to be a small sign of a crescent moon embossed in the leather, which Lyandra immediately recognised as the symbol of Sehanine.

When Dagran Forgewright had departed, Astrid came to the conclusion that she might invest some of the coin she had earned in two new hand-axes. The last ones she had gifted to the Kaedwyni orcs, and she would need a replacement set. She set off in pursuit of the dwarven master craftsman.

Luca had stayed close to Emma and managed to get in contact with Eryka, a jeweller who was happy to appraise the rubies they had retrieved from the catacombs. She lead both Luca and Emma to a small shop nearby the market square so that they could conduct the appraisal in more privacy. The store turned out to be very small, with an open back which looked out over a communal courtyard where all the other shops shared a working space. There were several stone cutters working away behind Eryka’s shop, cutting gems and polishing stones.

She poured the two dozen rubies out over a sheet of black velvet and took up a spying glass to look at one more closely. To everyone’s surprise she concluded that these weren’t rubies, but likely to be crystals.

Eryka called out of the back across the courtyard for a man named Eustace. A grey-haired man with an elaborate moustache and thick mutton chops and a fat belly came over. He was wearing a stained leather apron and he was asked to take a look at the stones in order to see if he could recognise what kind of crystals they were. He, unfortunately was unable to identify the curious stones. Eryka offered to do more research if the Luca and Emma were willing to leave one of the crystal in her care. They agreed, and the crystal was locked away in a strongbox.

It was time for Emma to head for the Sacred Baths of Sedna. They were in the right ward so it was only a short walk from the market on the Street of Spices. Upon arrival, Luca decided not to enter, but the rest did. Emrys went to the male side of the baths, Astrid and Emma to the female side. Emma was quickly found by Dagmær and informed that an emissary from House Germaine, a new arrival in Kingsport, had need for Emma’s services. The family had just acquired a new manse whose garden held a well that they would have blessed by a priestess of Sedna and they had donated generously to the bathhouse.

Emma decided to meditate on it while bathing and came to the conclusion that she would perform the ritual. A messenger was sent to inform House Germaine and a short while later a carriage arrived with a handsome rider who introduced himself as William. He was to take Emma to where she needed to go. Everyone piled into the carriage and after a short ride through the city arrived at the gate of the royal palace, atop Garamond Hill, where the guards saluted William and let the carriage through without challenge.

The grounds around the royal palace were splendidly decorated. The manor was overwhelming and even the dépendance magnificent.

There are two large buildings that occupy the palace grounds, the manor and the dependance. The royal manor overlooks a terraced, sprawling, immaculately kept park, filled with ponds, marble statues, rose gardens and the like. You also spot a prominent shrine to Chauntea, complete with a statue covered with beautiful roses. It is clear that grounds are meant to impress visitors, of which, Emma notes, there are precious few. Some crownsguard, who all salute William, some diplomats and a few of the nobility are walking around the gardens.

The manor’s enormous facade consists of a rusticated limestone base from which rise impossibly tall, white granite columns, framing the windows of the three main floors. The top floor is hidden by a decorated cornice, which seems to encircle the manor and is capped with a large balustrade, richly adorned with statues of kings, queens, and saints of Paladine. The manor has an almost fairy tale beauty.

The dependance is a much simpler looking building, designed specifically for that purpose. A much plainer facade overlooks the terrace, but made from the same limestone masonry as the palace. It houses the servants, barracks, armoury, stables, stores and larders.

Near the back of the grounds, between the manor and the dépendance stood an iron fence filled with luscious rose buses, obscuring the view beyond. An iron gate was flanked on either side by crownsguard who once again saluted William. The adventurers were requested to disembark the carriage and leave their weapons behind. Emma convinces William that she will require her Muirgheal in her ritual and she is permitted to bring it along.

The sound of water comes through from beyond the rose-covered gate. On the other side you are treated to a beautiful garden, with a multitude of pools and baths, each fed by streams, fountains, and water gargoyles. Beautifully designed, open pergolas and verandas, each framed by colourful lilies, provide ample amounts of shade from the sun.

Underneath the largest pergola, shaded by flowers and silks, sits a young woman, in her teens, dressed a beautiful red dress, adorned by a mesh of pearls. She is surrounded by several handmaidens and several servants are at her beck and call. A table filled with the freshest fruits is laid out, and crystal, elven decanters are filled with the finest Beauclair wines are available.

William leads Emma to the pergola, stands to the side and announces; “Your grace, I present to you, Emma Desmarais, priestess of Sedna, Sister of Streams and Lady of Lakes. Miss Desmarais, may I present to you, her majesty, Queen Isabella Valois.”

The queen turned out to be a commanding, but delightful young woman. She explained that the garden was designed by Francesca Sabatini, a renowned architect from Arroya. She said that it was her favourite place to retreat from diplomats and royal affairs and that she thought it fitting that when a true priestess of Sedna had arrived in Kingsport, to have the gardens blessed. She apologised for her subterfuge.

She was also interested in Emma, asking her where she got her last name, her training, and if there was any truth to the rumours that she had been working for House Sheridan, asking Emma to forgive her curiosity.

Meanwhile, Emrys, Luca and Astrid were invited to sit with the handmaidens in the shade beneath the silks. Astrid immediately gorged herself on the fruit which was being ignored, while Emrys entertained himself by getting to know one of her grace’s handmaidens, Lady Annabella of House Waxley, a sharp and engaging young woman.

Luca spent his time observing the surroundings and noticed a man with a curious mitre wrapped in ribbons of parchment covered with arcane script. The man was on the ground floor of the manor, staring out through the window, looking intently at the conversation going on between Emma and the Queen. All the while his lips were moving in a warding enchantment.

Emma explained to the queen that she could bless the waters of her beautiful garden, but that it would require them to find the source of the spring. The majordomo and several servants were fetched who lead the adventurers and the queen’s entourage inside the manor and down into the cellars. The cellars made way to even deeper catacombs, which eventually lead to a small cavern chamber.

Inside the chamber it was damp and hot and in the middle of the natural rock of Garamond Hill there was a small, natural cauldron up through which warm water bubbled up. This was as close to the spring as the group could get.

Emma started her ritual and first asked the spring what its name was. The water in the natural cauldron rose somewhat and the spring revealed its name to be Bláthnaid. It was an old Kaedwyni name which meant “flower” or “blossom.” Emma concluded that the waters of Sedna and the creations of Chauntea were cooperating exceptionally well in the water gardens of the royal palace.

Emma got inside the water of the spring to continue the ritual and invited the queen to participate. The queen ripped her exquisite skirt off without hesitation, revealing some delicate breeches underneath, and stepped into the warm spring water to join in the ritual. The remainder of the ritual took long enough for several of the servants to excuse themselves to attend to other duties. Eventually, the it came to an end when Emma placed a mark of Sedna in the cauldron of the spring.

Before the adventurers departed, Lady Annabella asked Emrys to confirm that he was staying at the Careless Wanderer, Luca confronted the mage who was protecting the queen with the incoming tide of magic and all the implications, to which the mage only nodded gravely in return, and the queen showed her appreciation by letting Emma know that she would be in her debt as a show of gratitude, something which might come in handy in the future.

Of Orcs and Men, Jail Break!

Previously, upon returning to the Sheridan estate from the ancient catacombs, the adventurers and the companions they picked up in those mysterious depths — the Lyrian knights, Bartosz and Brandomiir — were hailed as heroes, while there was a lot of consternation at the arrival of the four Kaedwyni orcs, who were prompty given “boarding” in the stables and two armed guards making sure they did not leave their “accommodations.” Meanwhile, a celebratory feast was arranged and the adventurers were asked to take up another quest; finding the Sheridan middle brother Destan and returning him home to Lynnecombe. All the while, the adventurers grew fearful for the fate of the Kaedwyni orcs.

The adventurers had just concluded their negotiations with Lord Jonathan for the task of retrieving his younger brother, having been promised a staggering one thousand gold crowns each, a cart and two horses for their journey and another one thousand gold crowns for expenses. It was clear that the Sheridans would not spare anything to get Lord Destan home safely.

Sixth Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

(Silvermoon is waning, Bloodmoon is waning. Darkmoon is in high sanction.)

When the negotiations were concluded, Emma requested permission to perform a ritual of confirmation for Bartosz, to acknowledge the ordeal he has gone through and to confirm his new standing as a local hero, in front of his community and the gods. Lord Jonathan was indifferent to the idea at best, but Ser Benten supported Emma in her initiative.

Later, in light of their coming effort to free the orcs from their imprisonment, it was decided to make sure that the orcs had some arms to defend themselves with on their long journey back to Kaedwyn. While Luca wanted to raid the armoury, Emma objected to that claiming that it would be a gross breach of the laws of hospitality which were extended to them. At most, she would be willing to part with her own arms and gear. Astrid quickly offered two hand axes and her great sword, the latter was deemed too hard to sneak into the stables. Emrys offered a dagger and Luca rolled up the weapons in a blanket and put them aside for when the time was right.

Luca suggested retiring to the chamber he shared with Emrys in the servant’s building and spend some time analysing the magical artifacts they had retrieved from the catacombs using a ritual he had learned from the book he always carried around with him. He would hopefully learn more about the weapons, their history and their magical properties. And more importantly, learn whether they would be dangerous in the hands of the party. Luca approached Lord Marcus with his plan, who nonchalantly parted with the twin swords he had claimed as his own.

Luca used a pestle and mortar to crush to dust the pearl he had received from Benten earlier. He mixed it with wine and created a thick paste with which he drew an arcane circle filled with infernal symbols. He sat inside and took Lord Marcus’ swords in his lap and divined their origin. One by one he did this with each of the weapons, ending with Emma’s trident. What Luca learned surprised him; the history, the exact nature and potential of the weapons remained unclear.

What was clear was that the twin swords were supposed to be wielded by one person and lost their enchantment when wielded separately. They — no, it — was called Gladia. It required bonding between weapon and wielder and once such a bond was created would the features of the weapon become clear to its user. It was also clear that through this special bond, the weapon would grow in power as its wielder would gain experience and power.

Toruviel was the name of the elven sword that Emrys had laid claim to. The magic surrounding the blade was old and ancient even for elven standards, and was almost solely comprised of transmutation magic. The difference with this weapon’s bond was that it would be a bond for life, unlike that of the other weapons. The bond could only be lifted if the weapon would be destroyed or if the wielder perished.

When Emma was still a little hesitant to hand her trident over to Luca, he decided to inspect his own staff instead. Blackstar it was named, and he found that it greatly boosted his abilities as a warlock. The types of magic that it emanated were varied, but a strong necromancy stood out.

Finally the Sister of Streams relented and handed her trident over to Luca who divined that its name was Muirgheal and that, like the others, its power was closely linked to those it bonded with. The magic surrounding it was varied as well, with enchantment, necromantic and transmutation.

Everyone departed the chamber with their weapons while Astrid and Brandomiir, who had been there to witness the ritual, left a little disappointed, having expected to see more fireworks or learn more about the weapons than they did. Brandomiir said that he had witnessed the identification of magical items before, since he knew some runewrights.

Emma went to find Bartosz and found him stringing a row of crossbows in the armoury. She and proposed the ritual she wanted to perform to Bartosz. He claimed to be a follower of the Platinum Father but admitted he was raised in the faith of Chauntea, his father being a gardener in Lynnecombe-upon-Lyn. Emma explained that Chauntea is supported by the life-giving streams that Sedna holds domain over. Benten suddenly spoke from behind Emma urging Bartosz to accept the offer.

“It is a great honour to be chosen for such a rite by a Lady of the Lake. It’s especially auspicious for someone who has grown up on the bank of an important river.”

Bartosz started to get excited and asked Emma when and where the ritual would take place. Emma told him that it could be performed that very evening in the courtyard of the estate. He asked if he could invite his family and she encouraged it, even going so far as to offer to take over his task of stringing the crossbows so that he could take off and inform his family and bring them back to the estate.

Meanwhile, Luca spent time with Blackstar, while Emrys took the time to attune himself to Toruviel. Emma followed once she was done talking to Bartosz and she and Muirgheal bonded, too. Muirgheal immediately sang to her.

“Beware, beware, the daughter of the sea.”
“Beware,” I heard him cry.
His words carried upon the ocean breeze,
As he sank beneath the tide.

When Bartosz later arrived back at the estate, he had half of the village following him in festive procession. Another feast had been prepared and people made merry. Eventually it became time to perform the ritual. Emma took centre stage on the landing at the top of the steps leading to the entrance to the mansion.

Those blood-soaked coasts of Jagg’d Shore,
Where sailors fought and died.
The Admiral fell at Dunagore,
because… she left his side.

Everyone gathered at the bottom of the steps and Emrys started expertly playing the lute he had borrowed from one of the servants in accompaniment of the ritual.

Words were spoken to acknowledge Bartosz ordeal and his return from the wilderness into the waiting arms of the community he grew up in. He was no longer the adolescent they knew, but now was an adult and one who strengthened the community as much as the community strengthened him. Bartosz was lead in a vow of dedication to the community as well as the Gods. He was then washed in Sedna’s holy waters.

At the start of the ceremony Bartosz older sister had made some teasing, playful jests at his expense that drew friendly giggling from the crowd, but by the end the community stood in awe of the new man standing in front of them. They cheered him on!

In the meantime, Luca had secretly slipped away from the ceremony to go to the stables, intent on freeing the orcs from their captivity. When he approached the entrance to the stables he noticed that the two guards were not at their post. When he eventually stepped inside the dark stables, he noticed that the orcs had extinguished the lights, and could barely make out the two unconscious guards, tied up in the corner. The orcs were armed with the weapons that Luca provided, as well as the arms they had taken from the guards. Brandomiir was there as well, having beaten Luca to the punch.

Quickly, Luca bid the orcs a safe departure and they sneaked out of the stables. Brandomiir and Luca returned to the ceremony just in time to witness the end of it. While people were cheering and the orcs were using the hay-filled sacks they had taken off their cots to climb over the spiked walls behind the stables, hounds could be heard barking ferociously. It didn’t take long before captain Mollen noticed the two missing guards and she immediately went to toll the warning bells!

Confusion erupted among the villagers and servants, and for a moment both Emma and Emrys weren’t sure what to do, so they lead the villagers to the well while the servants were fleeing inside the mansion and the servants building.

Why this? Why this, oh Daughter of the Sea?
Why this? Did you forget your seaside days?
Always the pride of our kingdom’s eyes,
How could she go astray?

Captain Mollen had quickly formed a squad of six guards and had retrieved the crossbows from the armoury, eager to pursue the fleeing orcs. Ser Guillaume and Ser David had joined Emma and Emrys and took over the care for the villagers. Bartosz, together with Dame Julie and Dame Madeline, ever the friends of the orcs, had followed the guards in pursuit of the orcs. Brandomiir retrieved his arquebus and was running out of the gate as fast as his short legs could carry him. Luca and Astrid made their way in pursuit, too, and somewhat reluctantly, Emma and Emrys also joined the chase.

Lyrian Arbalist

They found the orcs not far south, on the high bridge over the stream leading to the river Lyn, being held at crossbow point by the six arbalists, under the leadership of captain Mollen, who was ordering the orcs to surrender their arms, while Bartosz was trying to deescalate the situation and prevent any bloodshed. Captain Mollen was unwilling to listen. Korath and Kaedan had lowered but not dropped their weapons, while Summi had taken an aggressive crouch and Garr was pacing from one side of the bridge to the other, pumping himself up and getting more enraged by the minute.

When Emrys tried to talk to captain Mollen, he was confronted by vicious riposte with a thinly veiled racist undertone that told him that the captain would not be reasoned with. He positioned himself to the side of the arbalists and quietly drew Toruviel

Bartosz had not given up trying to talk sense into the captain, while placing himself protectively between the arbalists and the orcs. The Lyrian knights did the same, flanking Bartosz on either side. Dame Madeline kept her halberd disengaged, and Dame Julie left her swords sheathed, but did protectively hide behind her shield. Luca had also tried to convince the captain to stand down, but when that didn’t work, he commanded her and the nearest arbalist to flee the scene.

The arcane words he uttered impacted the captain and arbalist hard, and they fled with a startled cry, roughly pushing their way past the other guards. This shocked the group of arbalists so much that one of them yelled “fire!” and five bolts went flying. That’s when Emrys used one of Toruviel‘s innate powers and sent a gust of strong wind to fly into the projectiles, knocking three of them aside. One of the arrows bounced harmlessly off Dame Julie’s shield, but the last buried itself deep in Bartosz’s chest.

Suddenly there was a flurry of movement from the orcs, as they all jumped over the edge of the stone bridge, plummeting in the rough water far below. In seconds they were washed away beneath the white froth of the stream below.

Bartosz sank to the ground, bleeding from his chest and mouth and the light quickly faded from his eyes. Emma ran towards him, mumbling a prayer to Sedna even before she laid her hands on him to heal him from his otherwise mortal wounds. The Lady of Lakes heard her words and responded and the bolt was pushed from his chest and the wound mended itself neatly. Breath once again filled Bartosz’s lungs and his eyes opened wide in panic.

The irony of it all was not lost on Emma. Even though the other adventurers knew nothing of her stringing the very crossbows that eventually were turned on the man she sought to cement as a local leader and hero, they all felt that perhaps they had overstayed their welcome in Lynnecombe.

They returned to the estate to gather their things and depart. Lord Marcus was more nonchalant about what had occurred, saying that he would make the arrangement for them to get the cart and horses, as well as the small fortune that was promised to them for expenses. He believed that by the time they would return with his brother Destan that things would have calmed down and returned to normal. As they departed, he wished them a well;

Good luck. And may Mask soften your step.

The orcs had escaped what was likely a bloody fate, to test their mettle against the uninviting countryside of Lyria, where every soul they meet would see them dangling from a rope tied to the highest tree.

Bartosz would never be the same, as he saw more violence inflicted upon him at the hands of those he called friends and family more than the Skaven ever did.

The adventurers are once again in the employ of the “noble” house Sheridan, who seem a mix of equal parts ambition and mystery. Having never once been eye to eye with the patron of the house and having mixed feelings about the three other Sheridan lords they had to deal with. And now they are charged to retrieve a fourth Sheridan lord, taking them to Kingsport, Bournemouth and likely through the Riverlands and into the Silverpine Hills beyond.

Of Orcs and Men

Fifth Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

Previously, the adventurers managed to collapse the portal room and make their way through the catacombs, into the aqueduct and back to the estate. They found a warm welcome, until the Kaedwyni orcs climbed out of the well and then the mood soured. The orcs were sequestered in the barn and a feast was prepared to celebrate the return of Bartosz, the stalwart Sheridan guard who had made it back to the surface after being lost. The servants ate in the courtyard, the lords and their guests, including the adventurers, at in the mansion, and the orcs were stowed away.

The dinner at the mansion continued and there was ample room to socialise. Astrid and Marcus descended into doing drinking games, while Emrys was going around the table talking to everyone. Emma spoke to Benten about the pendant, intending on returning it to him, but he gifted it to the adventurers for their search of Lord Destan. He explained that it was a Transmuter’s Stone, which allowed the wearer certain small, but handy magical benefits, ranging from bestowing darkvision upon its wearer, much like that which is innate to the elder races, or making a person more hardy and able to withstand the elements.

The topic of the orcs came up and it became clear that the Sheridan position was a precarious one. Host the orcs as guests and it would cause trouble among the commoners, and if word spread, among other nobility. Let the orcs depart on their own recognisance and they would have to stealth and fight their way to safety. Smuggle the orcs to the coast and it would require having to stow away the orcs in boxes and crates, which seemed like something the orcs felt was too akin to imprisonment. One thing became clear, if a solution wasn’t found quickly, Lord Jonathan wouldn’t hesitate to put the name of his house before the safety of the orcs.

Luca departed for the night, and Emma eventually tried to show solidarity with the orcs by spending the night in the stables. Captain Mollen reasoned with her that the commoners would never accept that and assume the worst. The orcs would not remain safe, nor could Emma’s safety be guaranteed. Emma relented and tried to talk to the orcs and convinced them not to do anything rash, but ultimately felt that the situation was as unstable as Brando’s blasting powder. Anything could ignite violence.

Sixth Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

(Silvermoon is waning, Bloodmoon is waning. Darkmoon is in high sanction.)

The following morning, Luca got up early and went to visit the orcs. He had felt that it was time to help the situation along, since he had given up on a satisfying resolution if he let things up to the Sheridan lords. He warned Korath to be at the ready and wait for a big boom before making their escape. He departed the stables and started walking around the grounds trying to analyse the situation in order to best aid the orcs in their escape.

The rest of the adventurers came together outside to rummage through the left overs from last night’s feast and cobble together a breakfast. Emma noticed that Luca was plotting and when they all spoke it became clear to the others that Luca was planning an escape for the orcs. Emma was reluctant, but she understood the orc’s credo: Kor-ah ogar, freedom or death, and so she felt she should help. Arming the orcs, however, went against what she considered to be the laws of the hospitality that they had been offered by the Sheridan lords. Astrid offered the orcs her weapons, a great sword and two hand axes. Emma offered them her javelin. Other weapons they would have to improvise.

The adventurers found themselves in conversation in the mansion’s study and they made a proposal; one thousand gold crowns for each upon the safe return of Lord Destan, and one thousand gold crowns for the group for expenses. Besides that, Lord Jonathan would give the group two horses and an open carriage for transportation. It all seemed like a rushed negotiation while the adventurers had the orcs on their mind.

Luca was given a pearl by Benten the Purple so that he could further investigate the weapons that they had taken from the catacombs. And Luca also told the others about the macabre history of the Crimson Tower

Closing the Portal and Returning to the Estate

Fourth Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

Previously, the adventurers had battled their way past the albino skaven and its forces, including the ogre-sized rat and its taskmaster to find the portal through which the skaven had arrived in the catacombs. They had found James, captured and bound, in a state of torpor from which he would not awake. He  was one of several prisoners, including one of the missing dwarven engineers by the name of Brandomiir and Bartosz, the remaining missing Sheridan guard. And then there were the four orcs, who had been used as slave labour by the skaven.

Soon after the four Lyrian knights who had been fighting the skaven in the catacombs came into the room through the second entrance to the mezzanine that the adventurers had seen, and introduced themselves properly.

The prisoners were released and together a plan was hatched to collapse the room on top of the portal, therefore closing off the skaven’s access to the catacombs. Initially, the plan was to use Emma’s gifts as a priestess to create water in the cracks and crevices of the ceiling of the room. The ceiling had already been severely compromised due to the sudden appearance of the portal and its powerful but unstable magical energy.

The group decided to move to the mezzanine and climbed the broken staircase. Summi, the smallest and most nimble of orcs, carried the still unconscious James in his arms and managed to climb up. When Emrys and Dame Julie were having trouble scaling the staircase, the orcs created an “orc ladder” where they locked arms and gave everyone having enough handholds to make it up the broken staircase.

Emma asked Brando if he could lend his engineering assistance, which he was happy to do. He had been in great spirits after having found his weapon, a thing he called an arquebus, from among the crates that the skaven had left behind. His advice was far ranging and had to do with the “load-bearing capacity” of certain section of the ceiling, pillars and walls. It was Bran’s belief that the task would likely be accomplished much faster with his blasting powder.

Emma and Emrys decided to give their idea a chance first and while they did manage to widen one particular crack in the ceiling and dislodge several rocks from it, it was not nearly enough to cause a collapse of the room. Korath was pushed forward by the rest of the orcs;

Humies need ratmen barrel that boom go?

Korath brough a small group to one of the excavated vaults which the skaven had turned into a store room. Three barrels filled with blasting powder, much like the ones used to collapse the entrance to the communal room in which the adventurers fought the rat-ogre and its taskmaster. There was also enough fuse wire to allow the entire room to be rigged with explosives. While Brandomiir wasn’t particularly happy with the quality of the blasting powder, he became positively giddy at the idea of using it to bring down the ceiling of the portal room.

Before the room was rigged up, most retreated back to the communal room to prepare for rest and to hide from the explosion. Ser Arman stayed behind in order to protect the group setting up the demolitions. He spoke to Emma; it seems he had noticed her ailment and offered to use the blessings of Paladine to restore her to her former health, an offer she gladly took him up on.

Ser Arman takes his heavy gauntlet off his right hand and places it gently on Emma’s shoulder. He closes his eyes and his hard faces softens as he starts to mumble, only audible to those nearest to him.

“Lord of Light, Patron of Good, Father of all things, bestow your mercy upon this woman, whose heart I have judged to be good and purge her body of the evil filth brought upon her by the rats which defiled these hallowed halls like they defiled her body.”

Emma’s body starts shaking uncontrollably as if bereft of warmth on a cold winter’s day. Slowly at first, but violently after a few seconds. Her teeth chatter, her limbs spasm and with every convulsion, as her limbs twitch back and forth, wisps of acrid smoke trails off her skin.

Seconds later Emma’s body once again comes to rest as the lasts tufts of ochre smoke trails into nothingness, and she feel exhausted. There is a peaceful stillness and calm inside of her that fills her with a sense of happiness and contentment.

Under Bran’s instructions the barrels were placed and the fuses were drawn. Luca did the honours and conjured a flame from the palm of his hand which he used to light all the fuses at once. Immediately the group retreated out of the room, down the corridor and hid at the far end around the corner for three heavy explosions to rock and shake all of the catacombs. Dust and debris was jettisoned from the corridor but nobody was injured. After a cursory inspection the room was determined to have been a complete collapse.

The adventurers decided not to circumvent the collapsed room and approach it from the other direction to make sure that the other entrance to the room was also completely blocked.

In the meantime, the rest of the group, under the leadership of Lord Marcus, managed to tidy up the communal room by getting rid of the skaven bodies and starting a fire using the wood and filler from the crates they had found in the portal room. When everyone was reunited the remaining food was shared between everyone and Emrys even found some ways to stretch it by making some broth. The Lyrian knights decided to stand guard while everyone tried to rest.

Fifth Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

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

Several hours after deciding to rest in the communal room while the Lyrian knights take turns to stand guard at the only open doorway. While everyone was busy waking up, the orcs, under Bran’s supervision, started to clear the other doorway, the one that the skaven had collapsed. Emma helped out for a while, but couldn’t really improve the speed with which the orcs were going through the rubble any, so she decided to turn her attention to the conversation that Emrys was having with the knights.

Ser Arman shared some of the legends that were taught at the different orders of Lyrian knights, about the Silver Crusade and about the Senhadrim that were in league with them. There was some further speculation about the nature and the purpose of the catacombs, but no new insights or revelations that the adventurers hadn’t considered before.

When Emrys asked Ser Arman how he came to lead his knights into the catacombs, he said that he was visiting the Correntine ward in Kingsport from Gryphon’s Roost and got word from his cousin, Lord Charles Courtenay, the Duke of Northshire and Baron of Powderham, which is an estate neighbouring that of Lynnecombe. A sink hole had been discovered on Powderham lands and was wondering if Ser Arman wouldn’t mind investigating.

The conversation turned to the orcs, and Ser Arman proposed a pact between the knights and the adventurers; that they would stand in opposition to anyone who would capture or harm the orcs in any way. They had proven themselves to peaceful and helpful. The adventurers all agreed to the pledge.

When finally the orcs had managed to dig through enough of the rubble in the doorway in order to push even Garr’s massive frame through safely the group got under way. As before, Emma relied on the markings she had left in the walls, while Luca relied on his uncanny ability to simply know the way, and the group walked all the way back to the passage leading to the aqueduct.

Upon arriving in the aqueduct, Brandomiir quickly retrieved the things he had left behind. He was especially happy to see his blasting powder in good condition.

When the group arrived at the well, Astrid ferried them across to the middle of the lake:

Astrid starts ferrying people from the edge of the aqueduct to the centre of the pool where the bucket at the end of the boom dips into the water. Lord Marcus is the first to go up and finds a steadily growing crowd of house guards and servants gathering around the well on the surface. One by one people emerge. When Bartosz finally emerges from the well, the gathered crowd erupts in cheering and clapping. From the balcony above, the Sheridan lords join in the clapping. With his triumphant return, Bartosz salutes Captain Mollen and is instantly elevated to the status of hero. The man who came back from the depths.

When the Lyrian knights are hoisted up and out of the well the crowd quiets down and a murmur of awe and wonder spreads through the crowd. Children hide behind the skirts of their mothers, youngsters look in admiration and the elderly cast their eyes down in reverence. When Ser Arman climbs out the well, the Sheridan lords look up in shock and disappear from view as they retreat inside the mansion.

The lords make it down to the well, just in time for Korath to squeeze his frame through the well’s opening. The response by the commoners is to take several frightened steps back. The response by the house guards is to draw arms and close ranks. Korath takes a knee, lowers his head and opens his arms in a sign of submission, while the Lyrian knights place themselves defensively between the house guard and Korath. One by one the orcs climb to the surface, each met with more shock than the next. Finally, Summi emerges, carrying James across his shoulder. He gently lays James down on the ground and also opens his arms in submission. Garr is trying his best to appear nonthreatening, but there simply isn’t a fibre in his body which will allow him to appear that way.

The servants left while Lord Marcus discussed solutions with his brother. Emma suggested housing the orcs in the stables, quarantining them much like the way she had been quarantined during her illness. The lords agreed with the suggestion and Captain Mollen escorted the orcs to the stables and ordered the stable master to clear it of horses. Cots were set up for the orcs and they were required to hand over their weapons.

A banquet was planned for later that evening and there were still a few hours to spend before it started. Emma felt the urge to head to the river and invited Luca along. Emrys and Astrid decided to join for the walk.

The woods around the Lynnecombe estate were warm, pleasant and filled with life, making the walk to Lynnecombe-upon-Lyn very pleasant. So pleasant that it made Emma hum some sea shanties. To her surprise the trident which she had found in the catacombs and was carrying on her back, was gently resonating in harmony with her tune. Arriving at the village, the adventurers decided to circumvent it and head towards a shallow in the river that gave them some privacy.

There, Emrys spent time sitting at the water’s edge, inspecting the elven longsword he had retrieved from the catacombs. It was unnaturally light for such a sword and he could carry it with great ease. The blade was made from a metal that so bright that it seemed to shine with an inner light. Elven runes of great antiquity were carved all down the centre of the blade, reminding Emrys of the legendary Moonblades that were in the possession of the most ancient and noble Elven lineages. The guard was made from metal and brass and a delicate braided, metal wire wrapping neatly around the long heft.

Astrid had undone much of her clothing and was laying in the grass, dangling her feet in the water. Seemingly without a care in the world.

Emma had undressed and taken to water and was swimming a few laps before getting Luca to do the same. It had taken some time to convince him and he didn’t seem comfortable once he was in the water. Once Emma held him by the arms and he floated in the water Emma started to perform a cleansing ritual, meticulously cleaning his body, which eventually cured him of the disease which the skaven had inflicted upon him.

The four adventurers stayed at the river’s edge until it became time to head back to the estate at the end of the afternoon. Upon their return, Ser Arman had departed for Powderham. They found Brandomiir on a bench in the sun smoking a pipe and the remaining knights cleaning their arms. The servants had set up long tables in front of the servant’s house and had laid out a feast of soups, sausages, vegetables, breads and cheeses. It seemed that the servants would be having their own banquet that evening.

The adventurers decided to fill up four large plates of food and bring it over to the orcs who were still in the stables. Two of the house guards had been stationed outside of the stable and initially had no intention of letting the adventurers through, but were quickly convinced to step aside. Inside, the orcs, having had to relinquish their weapons, had prepared plenty of make shift weapons. Emma advised them to keep the weapons out of sight to which Korath made the emotional and determined pledge that they would not be imprisoned again. They gladly accepted the food and the adventurers departed.

Eventually, Captain Mollen came to invite the adventurers, the knights, Brandomiir and Bartosz to follow him to the mansion where they were lead to the dining room. There an even more impressive feast than the ones the servants had prepared was laid out on a table decorated with fine plates, silverware, cups and even delicate crystal glasses to serve wine in.

The Sheridan lords were seated at the head of the table, Lord Jonathan at the top of the table, with Lord Marcus and Ser Benten on either side. The dinner was served.

First, a thick soup of barley and venison, followed by a salad of sweetgrass, spinach and plumbs, sprinkled with crushed nuts. Then snails in honey and garlic, followed by a trout, fresh from the river, baked in clay, where the hard casing is cracked open to expose the flaky white skin within. The crowning dish was a large rack of boar, thinly sliced and seasoned with rosemary and crushed peppercorns. For dessert, sweetbreads and cheese, baked apples with fragrant cinnamon and Carcarian cakes frosted in sugar. All served with the finest Beauclairois wines, Mazurian spirits and Lyrian ales.

While everyone ate and chatted a trio of servants played instruments on the mezzanine above. The conversation was pleasant until the conversation turned to the fate of the orcs in the stables. Lord Jonathan was convinced to find a way to allow the orcs to return to Kaedwyn, which he admitted was going to be hard considering the Lyrian and Kaedwyni attitudes towards their race. The couldn’t stay, because that would not go well with the locals. They could not be set free, because that would not go well with the locals. Besides offering to smuggle them onto a ship at Kingsport and sailing them to Kaedwyn, Lord Jonathan didn’t offer any committed solutions.

Lord Jonathan proposed that the adventurers, who had shown themselves capable, resourceful and trustworthy, would set out for another task. It seemed that the patron of House Sheridan had decreed that the middle brother, Lord Destan Sheridan, should return home from an expedition to Pinefall; lands belonging to the Sheridans up in the Silverpine Hills. He was to return home and stand by his family while they considered the revelations of the last couple of days.

Lord Destan had left for Pinefall on the festival of Greengrass, together with three house guards as an escort. Initially he sent word back every few days, but they had not heard from him in three rides and they were worried that something might have happened to him.

Lord Jonathan claimed that the middle brother had gone to find the mysterious Crimson Tower, which legend had it resided in the area. The village of Bristlecone is where he had headed, and there was another hamlet by the name of Hunter’s Hollar that they knew of in Pinefall.

Luca, familiar with many legends, knew the Crimson Tower’s macabre tale, but decided to keep it to himself for now:

The story goes that a powerful member of the Silver Crusade was corrupted by a high ranking devil prince and convinced to lead a several hundred knights into a battle they couldn’t possibly win.

The knights were resoundingly defeated and their bodies were magically kept from dying. Neither truly alive, nor truly dead, the knights were stripped of their precious arms and armour and taken to the tower.

Their bodies were nailed to the tower until it was a writhing mass of bleeding bodies, moaning and howling in pain. Their blood soaked the walls and permanently stained them crimson, which is how the tower got its name.

The demons flew around the tower and raked at the bodies with talons and claws, and lashed them with barbed whips, and still the knights wouldn’t perish.

Eventually, a large host of griffon riders made their way down from Gryphon’s Roost to free their captured comrades, but when they arrived the tower was gone and so was any trace of the knights.

A search was conducted; griffon riders flew far and wide, the woods were combed by hunters and footmen, lakes were dived by fishermen, but not a trace of the tower or the knights were recovered.

Over the following decades, the tower was spotted appearing and disappearing, and the screeching of demons and the howling of the damned knights could be heard at night. Each time it was followed by another search by the Lyrian knights for their captured comrades, and each time the were disappointed to find no traces.